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04/14/2022 | Film and series review

"And what do I say? He didn't hit me?!" the US miniseries Maid

by Wiebke Bierwirth

(Netflix, 2021, USA - Drama - Directed by John Wells, Nzingha Stewart, Lila Neugebauer, Helen Shaver, Quyen Tran)

Trigger warning: domestic violence, alcoholism, sexual abuse, mental health, drug addiction, self-injurious behavior

"Before they bite, they bark. Before they hit you, they hit the wall."
Alex (Margaret Qualley) manages to save herself and their shared daughter Maddy (Rylea Nevaeh Whittet) from her violent partner Sean (Nick Robinson) before his emotional abuse turns to physical violence. The series impressively shows that experiencing such abuse is no less terrible. However, the young mother soon discovers that other obstacles await her: without a job, no childcare and no apartment; without an apartment, no childcare and no job. In the words of the protagonist, "What the fuck?"

She cannot and will not count on the support of her family. Her mother Paula (Andie MacDowell), who is undiagnosed bipolar, seems to still be clinging to her old hippie life as a failing artist, and her reliability as well as the communication between daughter and mother suffers greatly as a result. Early childhood memories of her father Hank (Billy Burke) are foggy at first, but once the protagonist recalls what really happened during her childhood, she moves away from her father.

So Alex must master her life as well as that of her daughter on her own. While she sleeps in moldy council apartments at night, she cleans villas on the outskirts of the city during the day and tries to keep her head above water. On the side, she's in a custody battle with her partner, trying to give daughter Maddy a good life, clashing with her mother, and at the same time dreaming of a degree in creative writing.

Poverty, a low-paying job, homelessness, recidivism, domestic violence, panic attacks, drug use, women's shelters, custody issues, an absurd-seeming welfare system, and unconditional motherly love are all part of the Netflix series Maid. Based on the autobiographical memoir by Stephanie Lands "Maid: Hard work, Low Pay and a Mothers Will to Survive" (2019), tells the story of a young woman who, despite her difficult circumstances, will do anything for her daughter. The love Alex feels for Maddy seems unconditional, all decisions are made based on the child's welfare . Here it could be criticized that Maddy as a two-year-old child is portrayed too well-behaved, at least she is shown whining only once in the entire series, otherwise she is a sunshine or sleeping, which does not seem very realistic. The connection to her mother Paula, which is complicated in some corners, is conveyed authentically, which is possibly due to the fact that the two actresses are also mother and daughter in real life. Although one could hastily label their relationship as a dysfunctional mother-daughter relationship, it becomes clear, especially after Alex realizes that they have both been through the same or at least similar things, that they care about each other.

Also of particular interest is Alex's relationship with Regina. She owns one of those villas on the outskirts of town where the protagonist cleans. Her new cleaner receives her cold-heartedly. The two women, whose lives couldn't be more different at first glance, get to know each other and each other's living situations better, however, and ultimately shape each other's development.

In ten one-hour episodes, Maid succeeds in portraying the hurdles of a woman who wants to free herself from her violent husband in an impressive, calm, captivating and at the same time emotional way, without becoming even slightly kitschy. Ultimately, this is probably also due to the actors, who are all convincing with their performances. Without the individual moments of happiness that Alex experiences, the series with all its violence, setbacks and moments of despair would be hard to digest. The film's color palette, filterless, simple and without garish accents, also contributes to the realism of the story, its tangibility and to empathizing with the characters, even if you don't share the experiences depicted. A series that you don't automatically finish with after finishing the last episode, that convinces without a lot of action and elaborate production, and at the same time can draw attention to such an important topic.