There must be a compelling thriller to be made about immigration and domestic servitude, but The Maid’s Room isn’t it.
Writer-director Michael Walker’s dreary film begins with the doe-eyed Drina (Paula Garcés), a recent Colombian immigrant, being driven by her boyfriend to a wealthy family’s isolated summer home. She gets a brief, patronizing tour from Mrs. Crawford (Annabella Sciorra), accepts a live-in position, and that’s about the last coherent thing that happens.
When Drina hears the couple’s son Brandon (Philip Ettinger) arrive home drunk one night, the front of his banged-up car having been conspicuously cleaned, she begins to suspect a hit-and-run. It’s a thin setup for suspense, so Walker shifts the film’s tone to that of a cheap morality play, with Drina valiantly refusing a pay-off from Brandon’s beady-eyed father (Bill Camp).
It’s unclear why she puts herself at risk for this cause, since we know little about her. But she sticks to her guns, and after a brief scuffle, Walker spends 35 more minutes trying to wrap up this messy narrative. The biggest problem is that it’s impossible to know what the film is trying to say; it always feels two steps behind and, in the case of the device that allows the family to abuse their employee, about 10 years too late: Maybe there are people out there who still don’t own cell phones, but they’re increasingly rare, and you certainly wouldn’t drop one of them off alone at an isolated house without asking about the land line.
Too low-stakes for horror, too lamebrained for satire, and too incoherent to be didactic, The Maid’s Room simply uses Drina and then throws her away.