- Roma review by PD
In this superb film, Mexican director Alfonso Cuarón uses a large canvas to tell the story of 'ordinary' lives that are, of course, extraordinary. Shot in black and white, the film is set in Mexico City in the early 1970s (apparently a re-creation of Cuarón’s home as a child), and centres on a young indigenous woman who works as a maid for a middle-class white family that’s in danger of falling apart. Cuarón uses one household on one street as a synecdoche of the city (the country?), working on an epic scale but with a distinctly personal sensibility with the effect that the film is less of a drama than a meditation on the past or a dream.
The film is set for the most part in a neighbourhood where families live behind locked gates, and where a myriad of servants busily keep homes running. In one such house, Cleo (the quite wonderful Yalitza Aparicio) lives with and works for a multi-generational family that seems incapable of doing the slightest thing for itself. A series of events slowly upends the stability of this world, and the film includes an earthquake, an unexpected pregnancy, death and betrayal, but carries you through with the sheer power of its humanism. In one of the most astonishing sequences, Cleo and the family’s grandmother, Señora Teresa (Verónica García), watch a student demonstration turn into a police riot through the window of a furniture showroom. Cuarón doesn’t identify the incident — apparently known as the Corpus Christi Massacre of 1971 — but gives us harrowing flashes of chaotic violence and human suffering.
Like Cleo, the camera is often mobile, anticipating and following her movements like a faithful companion, whilst the family’s four children tend to blur into a cacophonous but rather charming little mob. The constantly-on-edge mother, Sofía (Marina De Tavira) is unfairly berated by her husband and she, in turn, occasionally rebukes Cleo, a chain of exploitation that Cuarón represents coolly, occasionally letting a camera movement comment for him. There's a minimal plot, and this, together with its length, might put off some, but for those with patience, there's much to admire in Cuarón's vision of a woman and a world shaped by a colonialist past that inexorably weighs down the present without being at all heavy-handed - the director's, and Cleo's, viewpoints are instead created via visual choices, staging and camerawork. There are many scenes that can be truly called 'great', perhaps particularly two stunning sequences, one involving childbirth, and one towards the end involving dangerous waters, that are viscerally terrifying and emotionally overwhelming.
Few of the male characters come out of this tale very well, and of course the film is dedicated to Liboria Rodríguez (“for Libo”), the woman who raised him, who is beautifully depicted as something of a stoic, loving, heroic figure that is totally compelling.
4 out of 4 members found this review helpful.
Great - watch this film!
- Roma review by TF
A compelling portrait of society in 70a Mexico through the life of a young woman servant. All the relationships and characters are lovingly shown as individuals.
The film quietly but powerfully dissects issues of class, power, gender and religion without losing any of its humanity and complexity.
Brilliant! I loved this film!
3 out of 3 members found this review helpful.