The Cleaning Lady

Director: Jon Knautz

Writer: Alexis Kendra, Jon Knautz

Cast: Alexis Kendra, Rachel Alig, Stelio Savante, Mykayla Sohn, JoAnne McGrath

Cert: 18 (TBC)

Running time: 90mins

Year: 2018


What’s the story: Miserable in an affair with a married man, Alice (Kendra) befriends reclusive, facially scarred cleaning woman Shelley (Alig). But, some scars run deep beneath the surface.

What’s the verdict: We take a lot for granted in the motivations of those around us, but what do we really know about the people we let into our lives and homes?

What might they want from us? In the case of Shelly, the eponymous cleaning lady in Jon Knautz’s psychological horror, all she wants is to help you to be your best self.

Alice (Kendra) may be beautiful and live in an opulent uptown apartment building, but she’s also emotionally, if not financially, dependent on married man Michael (Stelio Savante).

Trying to break his hold on her, Alice attends support groups as a “love addict”, but lacks the resolve to leave him. She then meets Shelly (Alig), a cleaning lady who works for the building.

Quiet and hiding severe facial burns beneath a ratty baseball cap, Shelly seems to be everything that Alice is not. Despite this, Alice clearly feels a kinship, or at least sympathy, and hires Shelly off the books.

On the face of it, this could be good for both of them. Alice, a professional beautician, gives Shelly a makeup course, hoping to boost her self-esteem. Shelly makes Alice throw away her cigarettes.

However, as revealed in flashbacks between a young Shelly (Mykayla Sohn) and her folksy, terrifying mother (JoAnne McGrath), Shelly’s damage is more than skin deep.

That the film was originally titled “Something Fierce” reveals what lies beneath Shelly’s unassuming exterior; her possessiveness at the beauty she sees around her, her compulsion to recreate, and her rage when her objects of obsession fail to meet expectations.

Sympathetic despite a sadistic streak – a scene involving judicial application of hydrochloric acid is hard to watch – Shelly could well support a female slasher franchise. There’s plenty of opportunity for it, and after all, don’t we all wish we were a little more perfect?

Rob Wallis
Twitter: @robertmwallis
Website: Of All The Film Sites

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