Netflix’s low-key series Maid is a must-see

Maid ★★★★ ½
Netflix

No one works harder than the people who have no choice but to work in the hardest, hardest jobs available. It’s a truth that is at the center, as Margaret Qualley delivers a riveting performance in this American series based on Stephanie Land’s memoirs. Maid: Hard work, low pay and a mother’s will to survive.

But it is not only this unusually positive portrayal of a modern working poor mother that has made Stuepige a low-key smash on the way to overtake The Queen’s Gambit as Netflix’s most watched limited series. Created by Molly Smith Metzler (Shameless, Orange Is the New Black), it is an exceptionally well-judged piece of work – shocking, yet lively and entertaining – and one that provides insight and validation in a wide range of areas.

Margaret Qualley as Alex and Rylea Nevaeh Whittet as Maddy in Maid.

Margaret Qualley as Alex and Rylea Nevaeh Whittet as Maddy in Maid.Credit:Ricardo Hubbs / Netflix

Qualley is the heart of it as 25-year-old Alex, whom we meet as she is scooping up her young daughter, Maddy (Rylea Nevaeh Whittet), to leave her violent partner in the middle of the night. She has nowhere to go, but she needs to fill up with gas in the car, and as the pump whizzes by, we see her bank balance drop and fall – all the way down to $ 12. It is a simple device, but a device that conveys a stomach-churning feeling of free fall.

That feeling continues the next day when, after a night in the car, Alex begins to try to navigate the Catch-22s of Poverty – first, she can not get a job unless she has childcare, and she cannot get child care unless she has a job.

Rylea Nevaeh Whittet as Maddy, Margaret Qualley as Alex and Nick Robinson as Sean in Maid.

Rylea Nevaeh Whittet as Maddy, Margaret Qualley as Alex and Nick Robinson as Sean in Maid.Credit:Ricardo Hubbs / Netflix

In this, she gets almost no help from her mother, Paula (Qualley’s real mother, Andie MacDowell), a flaky “undiagnosed bipolar” artist who will later turn out to have an unspoken story that evokes some sympathy for her.

And when Alex lands some low-paid, insecure work through a exploitative house cleaning business, a whole host of other complications and humiliations spring to the surface.

What keeps her going is little Maddy, and the intimate, organic physical screen relationship that Qualley has with the meandering little child Whittet is extraordinary. If you saw them on the street, you would definitely confuse them with mother and daughter, and the script gives them lots of gripping little details – without the advice of an official doll by Ariel from The little Mermaid, they have a cheap knock-off, they call Schmariel.

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