A story that chronicles a year in the life of a middle-class family in Mexico City in the early 1970s.
Alfonso Cuaron’s latest film, ‘Roma’, is his most personal yet, a return to his roots after the Oscar winning success of ‘Gravity’. Loosely based on his own upbringing in Mexico City, ‘Roma’ is a drama film set in the early 1970s that follows the life of a live-in housemaid called Cleo (Yalitza Aparicio) and the middle-class family she works for. The film has been distributed by Netflix but like ‘Outlaw King’ and to an extent ‘The Ballad of Buster Scruggs’, some independent cinemas have been able to show it on limited releases for a week, and I’m glad I got the chance to see this moving piece of cinema on the big screen where it belongs.
The events of the film are seen through Cleo’s eyes and we see her immersed in her work supporting the family she lives with, cleaning, cooking and looking after the families four kids. In the background there are signs that the marriage between the two parents is falling apart, invisible to the children but apparent to Cleo and Adela, the family’s other maid. In her spare time, Cleo sees a guy called Fermin, and shortly after falls pregnant, which sends him running away and causes her unfounded concerns about her job. There isn’t a lot happening in the opening hour but this scene setting becomes important later on as it provides the backdrop that makes some of the developments to come so devastating. From this point onwards we see Cleo as she tries to cope with her situation, whilst in the background the effects of the failing marriage start to come to the fore more visibly. This is a deeply personal work from Cuaron, anchored by a heartbreaking performance from Aparicio, who had no formal acting training before taking on this role. The black and white cinematography anchors the film in the past and the film is filled with moments of visual poetry, such as a scene on a beach towards the film’s conclusion.
‘Roma’ is a film made by a director at the peak of his powers, using his filmmaking and storytelling talents just as effectively for a smaller, personal film as he has done for big budget movies in the past. The narrative touches on the political upheaval in Mexico at the time, as well as social attitudes, yet it’s anchored around an emotional portrait of a young woman facing a deeply personal test of her strength, and I thought ‘Roma’ was a poignant and achingly beautiful piece of work.
Directed By: Alfonso Cuaron
Starring: Yalitza Aparicio, Marina de Tavira, Fernando Grediaga, Jorge Antonio Guerrero, Marco Graf, Daniela Demesa, Nancy Garcia, Diego Di Cort, Carlos Peralta and Veronica Garcia