a sensitive and unequal series on influence and poverty

This mini-series adapted from a bestseller recounts the painful journey of a young mother to escape a violent companion and out of precariousness. A clumsy, but well-intentioned attempt to shed light on the struggles of many women, judges the American press.

Put a little gasoline back in the tank: – $ 5.65. Buy household products in order to be able to try out as a cleaning lady on behalf of a personal services company: – $ 8.90. Buy a sandwich at the supermarket to eat for the first time in twenty-four hours: impossible, it is $ 2.50 missing. Put the sandwich back.

Materialized in some scenes by a gauge displayed on the right of the screen, the tight expenses and the impossible budget management of a young American with almost no resources punctuate the ten episodes of Maid.

Posted on Netflix in early October, this mini-series is adapted from a 2019 best-seller in the United States, Maid: A Single Mother’s Diary (translated the following year by Globe editions). The author, Stephanie Land, recounted her struggle to escape a violent man and try to provide for herself and her daughter by working as a cleaning lady.

On screen, Stephanie Land takes on the features of Alex, played by Margaret Qualley. One day, after yet another altercation with her alcoholic companion, the young mother realizes that she and her daughter are in danger: the next bout of rage, it is they that the father could hit instead of the wall.

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Everything goes very quickly: Alex gets in his car and leaves in the middle of the night, his little girl under his arm and 18 dollars in his pocket. Then begins his “Cruel journey through the world of poverty, a terribly frustrating endless cycle”, report The New York Times. A course made up of administrative imbroglios, legal tussles, emergency housing, exhausting jobs and abusive employers.

As the American daily points out:

The series itself is frustrating: sometimes moving and convincing, it sometimes disperses and gets lost in commonplaces. ”

No surprises

Alternating between the registers of drama, social fresco and comedy (through, in particular, the character of Alex’s mother, a whimsical and bipolar artist played by Andie MacDowell), Maid “Does not know how to position himself”. Using “Clichés like mental illness, alcoholism and healing, she is full of good intentions, but wobbly, considers The New York Times :

If it is sometimes moving, [la série] is never surprising. ”

Journalist for the feminist site Jezebel, Emily Alford quotes for her part a text that she sent to a friend to share her impressions of watching the first episodes: “It is poverty explained to the rich, by the rich”, she wrote.

Empathy lesson

Alford – who confides in a part of the history of Maid – notes certain inconsistencies in Alex’s history and personality, in particular his often ingenuous air, which seems totally out of step with his life course. But after a few episodes, “I realized that these false notes were intentional : it is a clumsy attempt to make those who have never experienced this situation discover the chaotic path to extricate themselves from poverty and violence ”, explains the journalist.

In a context of galloping inequalities, where the richest sometimes show condescension towards those who are nicknamed the “white trash” [que l’on pourrait traduire par “racaille blanche”], Maid seems to want to teach a lesson in empathy. Bias “Suitable for an audience that needs to be explained that it is difficult to get out of poverty and violence”, Judge Alford, while that NPR (American public radio) greets “A fascinating personal story that holds in suspense until the last minute of the tenth episode”.

Delphine Veaudor

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