The Woman and the Passenger

the-women-and-the-passengerA documentary from Chile, The Woman and the Passenger gives us a candid look at sex and love through the eyes of a group of maids working in a Santiago sex hotel. Directed by two women, Valentina Mac-Pherson and Patricia Correa, this is a lighthearted, allegoric work that avoids being voyeuristic despite its somewhat provocative setting.

After having themselves worked a couple months as maids in the hotel, in order to better experience their subject, the two filmmakers let the camera roll, following discreetly the four maids during their daily routine and capturing their views about love, relationships and sex. Selecting four women which ages, relationship statuses and body shapes vary widely, the directors attempted to create some kind of universal portrait representing Chilean women. As a result the sex hotel isn’t treated as a thematic centerpiece but rather as a catalyst allowing those women to speak freely about any subject.

However, despite what you might expect with such a premise, the succession of interviews proves to be relatively tame, all those women showing some naivety whether they are embracing life or are simply disillusioned. The tone alternates between amusement – the maid who would like to try a sex chair with her husband –, disenchantment – the older woman who’s a widow and lost any hope of finding love again – and indifference. What they have in common though is a detachment from their environment; they also never express any kind of moral judgment about their clients. The filmmakers remain neutral as well, hinting that such places might just be a necessity in a country where so many people have to live without privacy in overcrowded homes.

Besides those few pretty banal points, this documentary however doesn’t go very far, failing at bringing anything new to the table. Except for the fact that those women multitask as maids, hotel grooms, cashiers and room service, I didn’t really learn anything that I didn’t know. We visit rooms that have various themes – from Egyptian to Spanish – and include poles, Jacuzzis and sex accessories. We see dirty sheets, empty bottles of beers and occasional cocaine leftovers and are told that clients come here to party, whether it’s with their lovers or accompanied by professional escorts. I don’t think I needed to visit a Chilean sex hotel to learn this but more importantly, it shows how the filmmakers hardly touched the surface of this subject, failing at exploring underneath this apparently innocent environment. I personally found this place to be sordid but the directors seem to stick to their naïve vision. We never hear anything bad about the hotel or the guests, like it’s just some haven for lovers – just imagine what the French would have done with such a subject!

Unfortunately I don’t buy this idyllic portrait and while I don’t think Ms. Mac-Pherson and Correa are trying to hide something from us, they might just be too young and naïve to tackle such a subject. The Woman and the Passenger remains an anecdotic work that lacks depth, which strongly undermines its impact and relevance as a documentary.

Director: Valentina Mac-Pherson, Patricia Correa – Running Time: 0:46 – Year: 2013 – Country: Chile

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Fred Thom

Fred Thom

Editor-in-Chief/Founder/Film Critic at Plume Noire
The founder and editor-in-chief of Plume Noire, Fred Thom covers film festivals and writes movie reviews. He was born in Marseilles, France and is now living in Los Angeles, California.