After 23 years working as housemaid in an upper class Santiago, Chile household, Raquel (Catalina Saavedra) is as much a part of the Valdez family as the wife, husband, and kids she lives with and looks after. On the occasion of Raquel’s 41st birthday Pilar Valdez (Claudia Celedon), her husband Mundo (Alejandro Goic) and their oldest son Lucas (Agustin Silva) force the sullen, withdrawn maid to emerge from her kitchen sanctum and join the family for a brief celebration at the close of dinner. But Raquel’s discomfort is as strong as her “family’s” need to acknowledge their awkward dependence on her and she soon withdraws to her room.
Plagued by migraines and dizziness, Raquel nevertheless devotes herself to her domestic responsibilities and to a complex series of relationships with the individual family members she serves. For insecure Pilar the maid has become the de facto head of the household. For teenage Lucas Raquel has transformed from surrogate mother to crush-object. For daughter Camila, (Andrea Garcia-Huidobro) Raquel is a bitterly resented opponent in an ongoing and undeclared psyche war fought via noisy early morning vacuuming, ignored instructions, and constant complaints and accusations.
Over Raquel’s objections Pilar hires a second domestic to ease the workload and hopefully improve her beloved maid’s grim attitude and increasingly poor health. Young and pretty Peruvian au pair Mercedes (Mercedes Villanueva) is an instant success with the rest of the family, particularly Raquel’s nemesis Camila. But behind the scenes Raquel quietly and mercilessly torments her new co-worker and eventually her campaign of comically petty and unrelenting psychological abuse succeeds in driving Mercedes away. At her patrician mother’s suggestion, Pilar borrows longtime housemaid Sonia (Anita Reeves) who resists Raquel’s provocations more forcefully. Tensions between Sonia and Raquel escalate to the breaking point and when the two veteran maids come to blows and Mundo’s prized ship model is destroyed as they brawl, Sonia is dismissed.
Raquel’s victory is brief. She collapses while serving breakfast and grudgingly accepts a period of bed rest and convalescence. When Raquel returns to work she discovers that Lucy (Mariana Loyola), a cheerful new maid near her own age, has effectively taken Raquel’s place. Raquel’s household terror tactics prove no match for Lucy’s humor and resilience and as their trust and affection grows, lonely and jealous Raquel begins to transform. Lucy invites Raquel to spend Christmas with her rural farm family and for the first time in her life Raquel feels what it’s like to be truly treated as an equal. She even kindles romance with Lucy’s cousin.
Lucy’s deep emotional need to be with her own family keeps her from forming the same tangled relationships with the members of the Valdez household, she becomes increasingly disenchanted with domestic service and city living. As Raquel, grateful and more cheerful, sets out to organize a surprise birthday party for her new friend, Lucy announces that she has decided to go back to the farm. Will Raquel be able to sustain her dawning appreciation for life beyond the kitchen and continue to develop a positive new outlook?