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CIFF 2023: Raging Grace

October 20, 2023


Last March, Paris Zarcilla’s “Raging Grace” won the narrative Grand Jury award at SXSW. Since then the film has been working the film festival circuit and was recently shown at the Chicago International Film Festival (CIFF). The British-born Filipino writer/director makes an impressive feature-length debut by incorporating the struggles of a single mother raising her daughter with certain creepy movie tropes into her film. The result is an absorbing tale that includes some poignant social commentary with some clever turns and without ever hitting us over the head.

The heart of “Raging Grace” is the relationship between Joy (Max Eigemann) and her young daughter, Grace (Jaeden Paige Boadilla). The two actors are fantastic together, working off each other with a natural ease. Within the first act of the film it is established that Joy is doing her best juggling various housekeeping jobs in wealthy London neighborhoods. Trained as a nurse, these jobs may often require her to serve as a caregiver as well. Joy’s work often requires her to bring the mischievous Grace along, as they often sleep in whatever temporarily empty mansion Joy comes across while she saves up for a place they of their own and an overpriced visa. Joy is often tired and focused on pleasing her often condescending clients, whereas Grace is more interested preforming pranks, games, and jump-scares with her mother.

Grace isn’t quite a straight out nuisance, but her constant antics are exasperating to watch, so you can imagine how Joy feels often being the recipient of them. Still, both characters are far from one-note and offer some intriguing nuances. There’s a real tenderness between the two during the start of “Raging Grace” which will establish the bond that will be needed later on.



When a job offer comes to her to make more many in one week than she could in three months, Joy takes it without any hesitation. She’ll regret that later on. The job requires Joy to be a live in housekeeper at an immense mansion isolated from any neighborhood and act as caretaker for its sole occupant, an old man named Mr. Garrett (David Hayman) is bedridden and near comatose due to cancer. Joy’s employer is the old man’s niece, Katherine (Leanne Best) a suspiciously particular woman who hires Joy to do everything for her uncle except dispense his medication. Apparently, the only thing Katherine is able to do for her uncle is force a handful of pills down his mouth.

Once Joy has moved into the dusty old estate things get strange. Afraid to let Katherine know that she has a daughter (for reasons unexplained), she tells Grace she has to remain in the bedroom they share when Katherine is present and to stay away from the old man. As viewers, we know that due to Grace’s inherent disobedient nature, she will not adhere to her mother’s requests. When Joy and Grace discover some shocking truths about Mr. Garrett and Katherine (not to mention that body in the basement stored in a glass case), Joy has to decide what her options are and what actions she is able to take.

Much of Zarcilla’s film delves into the exploitation of undocumented laborers and how the rich take advantage of them, treating them more like possessions rather than people. It takes Joy actually experiencing all of this for her to finally take a stand in her life for once instead of continuing in this endless circle of being patronized and taken advantage of. While much of the third act gets into Hammer horror territory, by that time we’re so rooting for Joy and Grace to make it out of this gothic drama unscathed that it really doesn’t matter what kind of tropes are used.

At the Music Box Theatre, one of the festival’s curators introduced “Raging Grace” as a “coming of rage” tale, which is appropriate, but it’s also quite a comical, moving, and provocative story.





While it’s unclear when exactly “Raging Grace” will be distributed, there are plans underway and it also looks like Zarcilla plans on created a “Rage” trilogy off of this film.



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