I wasn’t sure what to expect when I started watching “Maid”.
When I read up on the show, I saw that it was inspired by Stephanie Land’s memoir “Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay, and a Mother's Will to Survive” and there were some big names on the casting credit: Anika Noni Rose, Andie MacDowell and Billy Burke.
The opening scene was intense. It’s the middle of the night.
A young woman, in slacks in a T-shirt, gets out of bed with the stealth of a cat burglar.
Her partner is fast asleep. She slips into her sneakers, grabs a bag and heads to another room where she picks up her half-asleep toddler Maddy (Rylea Nevaeh Whittet).
The frame then shifts to her shoes crunching against the broken glass on the floor as she heads for the door.
Her state of anxiousness is unmistakable as she plants a quick kiss on her and gets her little one strapped into the baby car seat.
As she starts the car, there is a guy who appears in front of her. He tries to talk to her but she reverses and gets away from him as fast as she can.
The young woman is Alex (Margaret Qualley) and she was getting away from her daughter’s father Sean (Nick Robinson).
Her car is running on fumes and she doesn’t have much cash on her. She stops at a mutual friend’s place only to realise that Sean has called and is on his way. She leaves.
She has nowhere to go. And so she pulls into a parking lot where she catches a few winks until dawn.
That sense of hopelessness and despair is unrelenting as she tries to apply for social relief grant. But there is a lot of red tape in getting financial aid.
Picking up on her frustration, the woman helping her recommends a place where she can be able to get some work as a maid since she has no qualifications. She got a scholarship to study but it was derailed by life; she fell in love and got pregnant shortly after.
With no one to look after her daughter, she seeks out the help of Paula (MacDowell), her hippie artist mother who is all over the place and has the attention span of a goldfish. While Alex detests her mother’s freeloading, young husband, she puts up with him.
Side note: Qualley is MacDowell’s daughter in real life.
There are years of pent-up tension between the mother and daughter but they remain cordial. But Alex is in a fix as she needs her mother’s help.
Her first job requires her to hop onto a ferry. And the owner of the home she is about to clean belongs to Regina (Noni Rose), a high-flying lawyer with a very hard-to-please disposition.
Despite those gnawing hunger pangs, Alex does her best to ensure the place is spick and span. But Regina then stiffs her on her payment as she wasn’t happy with how she cleaned the patio furniture. And Alex is asked to go back.
Meanwhile, Paula, in failing to get a hold of Alex, ends up calling Sean to fetch Maddy.
Talk about a bad day. Alex just can’t seem to get a break. And, to make matters worse, she has to go back to Sean’s trailer to fetch Maddy.
Thankfully, she gets a spot at a shelter for abused women and children, where she befriends another young mother.
In the 10-part series, Alex loses temporary custody of her daughter and gets into a car accident.
Despite the challenges, she finds ways to rise above them. But, as in life, especially in such poverty-stricken circumstances, there is always a maelstrom of setbacks.
Every time Alex makes progress in trying to make a better life for her daughter and herself, she encounters a hurdle and it places her back in that circle of abuse and despair she tries to escape.
There are also unresolved issues with her father Hank (Burke), who was abusive and an alcoholic.
Qualley is brilliant in her role. She plays her resilient character with commendable dexterity. And she is compelling to watch.
“Maid” is a poignant drama. You will laugh, cry, get frustrated and, most importantly, be inspired.
“Maid” is currently streaming on Netflix.