Women who go through emotional and physical abuse in their relationships and struggling even to identify that they are being abused is a reality that many of us might have witnessed. For a third person who observes these events, it might feel very easy to tell them to walk out of such toxic and problematic relationships. But for those who are going through it, the sense of hopelessness is severe, and it can make them vulnerable and clueless. The new Netflix series Maid is an absorbing drama that depicts the fighting spirit of a 25-year-old single mother in the most heartening way.
Alex, the mother of three-year-old Maddy, leaves her boyfriend after he emotionally abuses her. Alex is clueless about what she should do for a living, and she decides to enquire about government shelters. From there, she gets to know about the complicated system with multiple demands, and through that, she gets this job as a Maid for meager pay. Alex’s efforts to stabilize her life and all the hurdles she has to go through are what we see in Molly Smith Metzler’s Maid.
The miniseries has ten episodes, and all of them are almost one hour long. The world-building it does is actually terrific. By the time the series reaches the 9th episode, the content is emotionally overwhelming. Because prior to that, you are just feeling really bad for this confused single mother who is trying her best to blend in and provide. You might even feel a sense of frustration seeing her empathy even towards those who never stood for her. Metzler layers this drama so effectively that you practically feel like you witnessed the trauma of this character.
One aspect of the series that I really admired is how multi-dimensional it is in terms of perspective. The series is not conveniently neglecting or hiding the people around Alex. Her boyfriend/Maddy’s dad Sean is an alcoholic, and instead of demonizing him without any layers, the series prefers to show us how he tries multiple times and just can’t control his urge to control and abuse his partner. At one point, Alex’s father justifies this act of Sean, and he even says Sean deserves empathy. This is a real-world dilemma that most people in an abusive relationship go through. The way the series pulls the character out of that dilemma is so real and practical. The character of Nate is similar to those people who empathize but gives up midway.
Paula, Alex’s mother, is another character that gets explored and placed brilliantly. The mother and daughter are almost like the what-if versions of one person. At one point, we see how abuse was the common link between the mother and daughter. While Paula decided to run away, Alex decided not to give up on herself. And in the entire series, one can see how these two approached life differently after a certain point in their life. Alex is someone who doesn’t want to take anyone for granted, and she is someone who doesn’t give up on people easily. These two character traits make Alex an extremely relatable persona, and I think the elaborate journey where we see her learn where to apply empathy makes the series emotionally moving too.
Based on Stephanie Land’s memoir, the goal of Maid is to shed light on the lives of those who are in these challenging positions in life where they are absolutely clueless. And one can see too many characters here that are various versions of the similar pain. Some have come out of the pain, some are still figuring it out, and some still can’t accept the truth that they are in an abusive relationship. The writing that primarily focuses on Alex never abandons other characters. The show does offer that hang-over phase once you finish it, and there are a lot of characters that will stay with you mainly because they all feel real. The cinematography prefers to keep it real for a significant part, and the abrupt shifts to some deliberate and evident fancy shots grab your attention.
Margaret Qualley as Alex is superb. There are multiple moments in the series where she just stares with a glittery eye, and the minimalism in her expressions deepens the cluelessness and helplessness of that character. She embodied the gradual emotional elevation of that character brilliantly. As Paula, Andie McDowell was another brilliant performer who is this annoying character in the earlier part of the series, and gradually we would feel for that character. Nick Robinson as Sean, Raymond Ablack as Nate, and Anika Noni Rose as Regina were some of the other performances that stayed with me, along with the adorable Rylea Nevaeh Whittet as Maddy.
Rather than being a pseudo uplifting drama that ignores the moral and emotional conflicts, Maid approaches its central character with sincerity. There is a point in the story where even Alex is feeling this guilt for exploiting her abuser because she was homeless. Such inclusions of confusing phases help the series a lot in being authentic, and it feels good emotionally to root for such characters who are so close to reality.
Rather than being a pseudo uplifting drama that ignores the moral and emotional conflicts, Maid approaches its central character with sincerity.
Green: Recommended Film
Orange: Okay, Watchable, Experimental Films
Red: Not Recommended