It’s a story of poverty, government assistance, abuse and loneliness. But it’s also a story about the tremendous power of a mother’s love and commitment to creating a better life for her child.
Loosely based on Stephanie Lard’s New York Times bestselling book, "Maid” was released by Netflix on Oct. 1. Starring 27-year-old Margaret Qualley as Alex, a young mother struggling to escape an abusive relationship while caring for her 3-year-old daughter, “Maid” is a triumph in both acting and storytelling.
Andie MacDowell (the real-life mother of actress Margaret Qualley) plays the role of Paula, Alex’s mother, who is living with undiagnosed bipolar disorder. Nick Robinson acts as Sean, the emotionally abusive father of Alex’s child who struggles with alcoholism. Anika Noni Rose plays Regina, the wealthy owner of the first home Alex cleans in her job as a professional maid. Many other characters circle in and out of Alex’s orbit, demonstrating the complexity that can exist in both long-term and momentary relationships.
One of the show’s greatest strengths is presenting flawed characters in realistic and heartbreaking ways. Viewers can easily find themselves angry or frustrated with characters that are cruel and abusive, in the same way the warmth and compassion of Denise, the manager of the domestic abuse shelter Alex finds herself in, can fill viewers with great comfort and hope.
A writer who planned to escape her small town on a scholarship to a small arts college, Alex abandoned her plans when she found out she was pregnant. We watch her return to her goal with fierce determination three years later and have the unique opportunity to journey with her as she faces challenges that seem insurmountable.
The viewer is given an intimate view of Alex’s world, in many ways almost living in her head. As she stops at the gas station to fill up her car so she can get to work or stands in the check-out line in the supermarket to buy food for her daughter, numbers pop up on the screen. You watch the $18 she leaves home with dwindle to $17.46 to $15.72 to $12.35 before she gets back on the road again.
You can watch elements of fantastic realism as Alex is swallowed up by a couch or a far-off voice speaks to her from the bottom of a dark cavernous hole. The creative team was masterful in demonstrating the ways Alex found moments of escape from her grim reality by disappearing into her head.
“Maid” is a necessary addition to your watchlist. It’s a thoughtful portrayal of issues many of us have the privilege of choosing to turn away from.