Fantasia 2023 Review: RAGING GRACE, An Immigrant Housekeeper Faces A Domestic Nightmare With Her Daughter
Debutante director Paris Zarcilla delivers a fiery first feature in Raging Grace, the story of an immigrant woman who takes a much needed service job in the wrong house. Starring Max Eigenmann as Joy and Jaeden Paige Boadilla as her precocious daughter Grace, the film puts a chilling spin on the dangers faced by migrant workers searching for a better life.
There’s nothing that Joy wants more than UK citizenship. A Filipina immigrant working as a housekeeper, she makes all of her money under the table. It isn’t much, though, and she and Grace are barely scraping by. If she can get her citizenship, she can come out of the shadows, maybe open a bank account, get a place for the two of them to live, and give Grace the life she deserves.
Short of a few thousand pounds needed to expedite the process, she stumbles into a job by accident when she’s mistaken for agency help when she agrees to cover a shift for a friend. When the woman of the house, Katherine (Leanne Best), offers her more money for a month’s work than she could normally make in half a year as live-in help and caretaker to her comatose uncle Mr. Garrett (David Hayman), she jumps at the opportunity. She sneaks Grace in to live clandestinely in her armoire, but the girl’s curiosity is too great to keep hidden. It soon becomes clear that the relationships in this estate are more complicated than Joy could’ve possibly imagined, and her dream job turns into a nightmare.
Family intrigue and hidden histories make Raging Grace a distinctly compelling watch. Zarcilla’s writing and direction keep the audience’s attention while we uncover the mysteries of the Garrett mansion along with Joy and Grace. There are clues to the malevolence within, but they are only clear in retrospect, making the film one that will certainly reward revisiting.
Eigenmann’s lead performance as Joy is immensely relatable. Her character is one that makes all the right decisions given her circumstances and still frequently winds up behind the eight ball. The performance is incredibly tender and reveals her hesitance with the entire situation, but also allows us to believe that she’s doing what she feels is best for her family. Boadilla’s Grace plays an excellent, exuberant foil to Joy’s caution. Grace sees the world – or at least this house – as her playground, she is vivacious at the same level that Joy is guarded, and it is that emotional diversity that makes the film so compelling.
Supporting Zarcilla’s excellent writing and the lead performances are craftsmen supporting the creeping dread of Joy’s situation. Cinematographer Joel Honeywell, also making his solo narrative feature debut, frames the action in a cramped 1.33:1 aspect ratio, imparting to the audience the same feeling of constraint experienced by Joy as her world is restricted to the walls of this house for the duration of her experience. Composer Jon Clarke, credited here as supervising sound editor, crafts a disconcerting soundscape with traditional instruments and percussion that adds to an increasing unease throughout the film.
A mix of all-too-realistic drama and fantastical dreamscape elements, Raging Grace is a powerful look at the ways in which those who seek to control gradually reveal themselves. Enemies become friends who then become tyrants when given emotional access, the film treads a little bit of the same ground explored with incredible success in Get Out, but here the genre elements mostly lean toward the thriller rather than horror, at least for most of the film. Raging Grace pulls no punches, though, bringing the anxiety and horror of undocumented living to the big screen in a very relatable way with just enough nightmare to keep the audience at the edge of their seats.
- Paris Zarcilla
- Paris Zarcilla
- Max Eigenmann
- Jaeden Paige Boadilla
- Leanne Best