Lila Aviles (Mexico, 1982) debuted in theater with plays such as "Gardenia Club", "Microdermoabrasion", "Antigona", and "La Camarista", which was
inspired by Sophie Calle's "L'Hotel" (1981).
She also directed operas.
Her film La Camarista/ The Chambermaid (2019), based on her own play,
is a dramatic portrait of a humble existence that turns increasingly tragic.
The chambermaid has only one joy in life (her son) and seems immune to any
feelings about her job; but one mistreatment after the other, one disappointment
after other, eventually take a toll on her psychology. Aviles never shows us
her private life. We never see her home. We never see her commuting. We don't
even see her son. We only see the hotel where is almost a prisoner and slave.
And very little happens in that hotel, but each little thing makes her a little
less a robot and more human. She is an impenetrable sphinx and we can't figure
out how hurt she is, whether she wants to kill herself or what.
Eve, a 24-year-old housekeeper in a high-rise luxury hotel, is cleaning a room
when she realizes that the guest, an old man, was sleeping under the bed.
She works at the 21st floor of the hotel, and she hopes for a promotion to
the exclusive 42nd floor.
One day a male coworker, Skinny, asks her for a favor: one of the guests on
his floor is a woman and wants a female housekeeper. Eve accepts and learns
what she has to do: she has to watch the woman's baby while the woman showers.
The woman is from Argentina and is obviously very rich. She trusts Eve after
Eve tells her that she has a 4-year-old son. And pays her very well and asks
her to come back every day.
Eve inquires from her supervisor about a red dress that she found in a room
and the guest hasn't claimed: the supervisor promises that she will get the
red dress. Even is cleaning another room when a window washer, hanging outside
the window of the room, tries to get her attention. She closes the curtains.
We learn that she wakes up every morning at 4am to get to work at 6am.
She talks on the phone to a Maquitos, who is taking care of her son.
She begins an evening school run by a teacher, Raul, who is preparing the
students for a general education test. She is shy and reserved and meets the
exuberant Minitoy/Miriam, who works at the 16th floor and offers her friendship.
Eve's only entertainment in the hotel is to browse through the belongings
of the guests, mostly the garbage that they leave behind.
Eve is reluctant to talk to anybody like a wild animal.
One day, however, she needs help because she drops her menstrual blood on a
bed, leaving a terrible stain. Miriam helps her clean it, and then asks
Eve for help cleaning another room, that turns out to be very messy.
Eve continues to take care of the Argentinian woman's baby and gets attached
to him. Raul and the students have fun playing games, but the shy and reserved
Eve doesn't join them. She is the most serious about learning.
Minitoy/Miriam eventually prevails and talks Eve into trying the electrical
shock that they all enjoy as a sort of drug.
Her secret lover, the window washer, leaves flowers for her on the beds
that she has to clean.
Some of the guests can be annoying. A Jewish guest asks her to call the
elevator for her and even press the button to go down to the ground floor:
he cannot do it himself because it's a sabbath.
Then suddenly the Argentinian woman disappears, without even saying "bye"
to Eve who took such good care of her baby. Even is bitterly disappointed
and misses the baby. Eve keeps studying, even in the bathroom, taking notes
on toilet paper. She is careful not to spend money: both Miriam and another
coworker try to sell her useless products.
Then one day she sees the window washer staring at her from his platform
and starts stripping for him.
Because of Miriam, one night she misses the last bus and has to sleep in a small
room of the hotel. The union shuts down Raul's classes and so she misses the
opportunity to learn. The supervisor finally hands Eve the red dress that
Eve has been dreaming of, but at the same time tells her that the promotion
to the 42nd floor went to Miriam. Eve is furious because they always told her
that she was going to get her. Still carrying the red dress, she enters a VIP
room of the 42nd floor and walks around staring at the beautiful furniture,
even a swimming pool. Then she walks to the roof of the building and stares
at the sky, as if asking "why me?" Suddenly, she buys the useless products
from her coworker and even accepts to trade the red dress for a toy car.
And she leaves the hotel.