Horror is one of the few movie genres that can take everyday situations and make them scary and frightening for those who aren’t experiencing it. The genre takes the smallest of details, anxieties, and flaws and magnifies to a scale that’s shocking and eerie. It’s a real empathy machine, especially when you can start to understand and sympathize with the marginalized and the forgotten. In the movie Raging Grace, writer and director Paris Zarcilla (Pommel) takes a look at the everyday horror of being an undocumented immigrant living and working in a foreign land.
The movie follows Joy, played by Max Eigenmann (12 Weeks, Kargo), a Filipino housekeeper working in posh London, England, while her adorable 10-year-old precocious and mischievous daughter Grace, played by Jaeden Boadilla, in her feature film debut, hides away from her mother’s employers. Joy and Grace move from fancy home to fancy home, as Joy takes odd jobs cooking and cleaning to earn enough money to buy fake papers to “prove” her citizenship, while Grace goes off to school.
After losing another job, Joy lands in the perfect situation working for Katherine, played by Leanne Best (Our Kid, Ted Lasso), a caretaker of her wealthy, but bedridden uncle Mr. Garrett, played by David Hayman (The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, Sid and Nancy) and his large estate in the English countryside. Although she’s close to her financial goal to gain false documents, things are what they appear after Joy does too good of a job, as she nurses the elderly man back to health. Let’s just say, Joy and Grace got more than what they bargained for.
Raging Grace is an exceptional film that offers thrills and scares, while also delivering up a point-of-view that’s not often seen in movies — namely, the stories of Filipino women who leave their homeland to work in service of others. No wonder Zarcilla wanted to take those very familiar stories of the Filipino community and make a horror movie out of them. In fact, it’s very common for Filipinos to leave their country to work as housekeepers, nurses, caregivers, or cruise ship workers, so they can send money back home for their families.
There’s a theme throughout the film that offers up the idea that Joy is better off in England than with her family in the Philippines because England is (somehow) the center of the Western world. Why wouldn’t anyone want to live in the center of the world instead of on the outskirts of society, even if you’re living a life in servitude to oblivious White people? It’s almost as if people don’t consider their home as the outskirts.
Zarcilla injects so much detail of Filipino culture in Raging Grace that it feels like he has a steady hand with the material and how to present it for a general audience. You give it some entertainment value of shock and horror to lead viewers into a way of life that may be different from their own. It’s striking and smart.
Raging Grace is a breath of fresh air and does things that are difficult to pull off in movie making, like showcasing a story that’s not often told, do it in an engaging and satisfying way, give humanity to a class of people who are considered as “the help,” and scare the bejesus out of audiences. All while Zarcilla gives the film style and a certain panache to get viewers to pay attention.
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