This violent unforgiving film comes from ‘Goddess of Love,’ Director Jon Knautz with immediate stomach lurching moments which make you realise that this movie will not end well.
Love-addict Alice (Alexis Kendra) attends weekly group therapy as she tries to end an on-going affair with a married man. Unable to shake him off with constant relapses, she strikes up a friendship with a strange cleaner called Shelly (Rachel Alig) as a distraction.
Shelly has painful scars on her face and is clearly disturbed by her appearance. Although she remains withdrawn, it’s not long before she indirectly empowers Alice to give up the married man, stop smoking and realise her worth. Alice also tries to support Shelly by showing her how to do her make-up and gifts her a dress.
Back at home, Shelly lives in a filth pit, constantly re-living a traumatic childhood, unable to shift the constant sexual abuse she experienced instigated by her own mother.
But her mother is still alive, as Shelly keeps her in a shipping container in the back yard force-feeding her rat-smoothies daily. We know that Shelly’s mom did something pretty abysmal.
When Shelly discovers that Alice has relapsed, she’s very disappointed. Alice isn’t perfect after all and she needs to fix this in the only way she knows possible.
The perfect, safe idyllic Stepford Wives lifestyle Alice is accustomed to is suddenly turned upside down, as Shelly reveals just how far she will go to heal Alice and make her perfect again. Alice is faced with a new reality which brutally shows how one bad decision creates a domino effect for all involved, and the overall moral of the story being self-love, something that Shelly perhaps achieved through vengeance…or is at least working on.
The Cleaning Lady is a suspenseful nail-biter, Shelly is a convincingly terrifying, disturbed serial killer. However, it would be unfair to call her a psychopath since her character does show empathy, misguided compassion and sense of liberation.
Most of the characters in the film are women who face heartache and harassment from the men who appear weak and are the root cause of their insecurities.
Character Shelly in a sense was trying to get Alice to realise that she could be a better person, that she could lead a happier life without allowing men to shit all over her parade.
But in order to do that, she might need some of the qualities and self-worth Shelly has. As a result of a traumatic childhood, Shelly drew a line, albeit extreme, on men and women taking advantage of her and was able to distinguish what was unacceptable behaviour from a loved one. This is something that Alice lacked with blurred boundaries of right and wrong.
However, it’s still possible, that if Alice didn’t relapse, Shelly might still have switched on Alice since she became infatuated by her kind and beautiful nature.
Knautz applies sensitivity to both women’s personal circumstances through his brutal storytelling. It’s difficult to dislike Shelly’s monster, when Alice’s monster of self-hate and lack of worth might be deeper, beyond the physical scars of Shelly’s.
The Cleaning Lady is a movie, I’d like to watch again…perhaps after I’ve finished reading Women Who Love Too Much by Robin Norwood.