MAID. With Margaret Qualley, Rylea Nevaeh Whittet and Andie McDowell. Netflix.
MEGAN CHORITZ reviews
I am still digesting this one. It’s going to be with me for a while. I am haunted by some of the scenes and my mood is totally influenced by it. For those who are in, or have come out of emotionally abusive relationships, this 10-part series will certainly be triggering, even though it is beautiful, raw, heart breaking and incredibly well made.
Maid is the story of a young mother who escapes her abusive relationship only to struggle with welfare and the system that is loaded against her. She ends up cleaning houses to survive. It is all very bleak, but so very familiar.
Margaret Qualley plays Alex, and she is the rock, the pivot, and the reason for the success of this series. I am not sure that I have seen a performance like this before. It is somehow very modern and so honest. She takes her time, she is passionately expressive, and her journey with this character is huge. Part of the success of her performance, and the series, is her relationship with three-year-old Maddie, played by Rylea Nevaeh Whittet. I don’t love child actors, but Rylea is lovely, because of Margaret and how she handles their scenes with such commitment and love. It is so complex and layered, it is impossible to separate actor from character, and that is testament to how good she is. Their physical connection is amazing. They are intimate and natural, and it is beautiful. It is rare to see a mother-child relationship this intense and powerful on screen.
Then, Andie MacDowell plays Paula, Alex’s bipolar, artist mother with such detail, energy, strangeness, and horror. Again, I have never quite seen anything like it. She is utterly brilliant, in a toxic, hideous, jarring way.
All the women in this series are phenomenal
All the women in this series are phenomenal, from Regina (Anika Noni Rose), Alex’s rich client, to the gorgeous shelter supervisor Denise (BJ Harrison) and each tiny bit part too.
Nick Robinson, as Sean, has the odious task of being charming lowlife alcoholic boyfriend and he is amazing, but this is a women’s story, and it is the female cast that shines.
There are so many potential pitfalls in a series about GBV. Sentimentality overload, trauma porn, stereotypes. Maid manages to skirt close but to dodge them all, and it is because it is so well written, directed and performed. The style combines total naturalism with fresh and innovative ideas. Money and texts are all woven in like subtitles. Alex’s black hole is portrayed quite literally as that. The location with its forest, beach, ferry, winding roads and small-town feel is a perfect backdrop for the small family drama to unfold.
I had to watch this series slowly. There were times when I needed a break. And there were times where I cried through the entire episode. And now I can’t stop thinking about it.