‘Maid’ is heartbreakingly real diving into poverty, domestic violence


Photo courtesy of IMDb

Margaret Qualley (pictured here) stars as a single mother plagued by poverty and domestic abuse in Netflix’s “Maid.”

The seemingly never-ending cycle of poverty, violence and bad luck is gut wrenchingly evident in Netflix’s “Maid,” staring the uber-talented Margaret Qualley as Alex — a single mom working to raise her daughter Maddy (Rylea Nevaeh Whittet) amidst an unthinkable (yet realistic) slew of obstacles. 

The 10 episode limited series, based on the memoir by Stephanie Land, “Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay, and a Mother’s Will to Survive,” takes viewers through Alex’s story — one of perseverance, grit and at its core: the power of love and family.

After escaping an emotionally abusive relationship with her alcoholic partner (and Maddy’s dad) Sean (Nick Robinson), Alex navigates homelessness, government assistance programs, poverty, unemployment and even PTSD from the escaped abuse.

Alex gets a job as a maid to make ends meet, and during one of her cleans she has a jarring flashback — one where she was hiding in a cabinet as a little girl, while her dad (Billy Burke) hit her mom. Alex, having experienced abuse in her relationship with Sean, is inspiringly motivated and resilient in giving Maddy the best possible life. 

Alex’s mother Paula (Andie MacDowell, also Qualley’s real mom) is a free-thinking, bohemian artist who exhibits signs of bipolar disorder. Alex works to take care of her mother — who is also often taken advantage of by men, primarily her partner and eventual husband Basil (Toby Levins)  — in the midst of her own struggles.

Let me just start by saying: “Maid” is absolutely exceptional. Tears were no stranger as I navigated my way through all the ups and downs.

The way domestic violence was addressed in the show was especially raw and harrowing. At one point, with nowhere left to turn, Alex found herself back living in Sean’s trailer with Maddy — which in the show’s opening scene we see her escaping from. Sean, though trying to get sober, ends up drinking again and emotionally abusing Alex.

“Maid” takes viewers step by step through the tragic turmoil domestic violence has, as we see Sean get rid of Alex’s car so she can’t get a job, belittle her, force her to do as he says and limit her contact with the outside world. For most, it’s nearly impossible to leave that abusive relationship, and “Maid” provides the perfect representation of that. 

During these moments, the show lays out a distressing visual of Alex laying in a hole — frozen with nowhere to go. I can only imagine that’s how it would feel to be trapped in an abusive relationship. “Maid” doesn’t sugar coat or shy away from the harsh realities of domestic violence, and I’m thankful for that — I feel like everyone needs that glimpse into the impact abuse has.

We also watch Alex experience poverty — which is alarmingly realistic and upsetting. At one point, Alex and Maddy spend the night on the floor of the ferry terminal. These scenes are extremely hard to watch, but also incredibly important to see.

At its core, “Maid” shows the immense lengths we go to for those we love. Alex is plagued by insurmountable obstacles, but viewers watch her stretch herself thin for her daughter, for her mother and for herself — it’s poignant, but beautiful and inspiring all the while. Alex is one of the strongest, most likeable characters I’ve ever seen on my screen.

To put it bluntly: anyone and everyone needs to watch “Maid.” Tons of elements — characterization, plot, storytelling, social commentary, casting, setting — come together to make something truly brilliant.

Rating: 5/5 stars