The Goodbye

The Goodbye is an exquisitely put together short film about Rosana, a maid who prepares her departed mistress for her funeral.

The film is only 15 minutes long and it is not overburdened by dialogue, but it is able to evoke a sense of entire history, of relationships really expertly. Rosana is silent interacting with the body of her mistress, yet you feel the real grief, the respect, and the loss of a friend. The actress, Jenny Rios, conveys so much without words, tenderly clasping the hands of the old woman, dressing her with care, paying these last remaining tendernesses to someone you feel she must have been with for years, if not decades. It is Rosana who has been with her in this house as she has aged, and ached, and eventually extinguished.

The antagonist of the film is the mistress’s daughter, Merce. She acts like she’s inherited Rosana as just another object inside the house. She commands rather than talks to Rosana, and seems to think well of herself because she does so politely. She demands Rosana redress the body, in an outfit Merce prefers, against what were her mother’s express wishes.

The mistress’s granddaughter, Julia, speaks to Rosana like a person, clearly having taken her cue from her grandmother, and seeing her in the same bracket as another grandma or elder in the family. Throughout the course of the film Rosana tries to help Julia come to terms with this, her first death. It’s done in little ways, like encouraging her not be frightened of the body at the viewing, and playing with her in her room when she is anxious and needs to blow off steam. Julia is equally aware of Rosana’s emotional state, wiping away her tears, even after Rosana dismisses it as just a result of cutting onions. There is a tenderness between them that you feel is analogous to that of her grandma.

Merce stands in sharp contrast, constantly cajoling Julia to hurry up, dress smartly, and behave herself. Everything Merce cares about it is appearance, and she displays as little care for Julia’s inner self as she does for Rosana. When she finds out during the wake that Rosana has refused to redress the mistress, she is appalled at being defied. When she tries again to get Rosana to redress the body, Rosana more or less tells her, ‘Dae it yersel’.

The final insult is when it’s time to go to the funeral, and as Rosana appears out of uniform, and in her funeral blacks, Merce is aghast, drawing her aside. She tells her not to come to the funeral, so that the rest of the party may return to the lunch ready for them. This woman who was with her mother for years, she tells her not to come and mourn her. Bastard. Merce is white, of European descent, and Rosana is darker-skinned, perhaps indigenous. A distinction you can almost feel jump out in the moment when Merce realises Rosana intends to attend mass with them.

The Goodbye is a film of mourning, for a person yes, but also for a home. The first shot is of Rosana nodded off in one of the chairs. You get the feeling that this is a place she feels comfortable, where she could doze in one of the expensive chairs in the public rooms without concern. Over the course of the film, it’s clear that will no longer be the case. Julia tells Rosana that her mother says she will come and live with them now. In her childish innocence, she says, “You can stay in my room”. It’s clear Merce hasn’t even discussed it with Rosana, let alone asked her.

Rosana is grieving in this film, for a friend, for a home, for a place in the world. You get a sense of the years she has spent here, and it is an end of an era for her, marking a period of her life that has come to a close.

Superbly acted and beautifully shot, The Goodbye is a testament to what storytelling can be done in short film.