Oh sweet, beautiful Roma, how I love you so.
Alfonso Cuarón is often thought of as one of the better working filmmakers today.
There’s good reasoning for that, of course, as he can make these grand-sweeping epics like Gravity or Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (which is, by far, the best Harry Potter film) or something much more small and intimate like Children of Men or Y Tu Mamá También.
His latest project, Roma, is one that falls more into the latter category, even though it certainly has all kinds of crazy, seemingly impossible ambitions that it sets up for himself.
It’s also, I think, his best film to date.
Set in a small town neighboring Mexico City called Colonia Roma in 1970, Cleodegaria “Cleo” Gutiérrez (first-time actress Yalitza Aparicio) isn’t someone who’d you necessarily expect to have a movie focus on.
Cleo works as a maid for a family who’s much richer than she could ever be. In fact, if it wasn’t for this family, Cleo would probably be approaching poverty. Luckily, though, Sofia (Marina de Tavira) and her husband, Antonio (Fernando Grediaga), hired her and a couple of other young women to help around the house while also giving them a place to stay and food to eat.
Cleo’s duties mostly include cooking, cleaning, taking care of the family dog and looking after Sofia and Antonio’s four children — Pepe (Marco Graf), Sofi (Daniela Demesa), Toño (Diego Cortina Autrey) and Paco (Carlos Peralta).
That might not sound too pleasant or exciting for some people, but, for Cleo, it’s enough. Despite the difference in class and wealth, Sofia’s family genuinely cares and looks out for Cleo, making her feel loved. She’s also involved with a young man named Fermín, which brings new kinds of excitement into her life.
And, for a long time, that’s really all there is to Roma — just this beautiful, tender look into the life of someone who’s often overlooked in society.
Eventually, though, Cleo runs into trouble when she discovers that she might be pregnant. Fermín, who’s off training to become a martial-arts master or something ridiculous like that, wants nothing to do with this baby, meaning Cleo is completely alone through this unforeseen challenge.
She’s not the only one who’s all alone, though. Out of nowhere, Antonio makes a decision that he wants to leave to family and run-off with several younger women. That means Sofia is suddenly in charge of taking care of the entire family completely by herself, too.
While both Cleo and Sofia know that they have very different places in society, the two of them then sort of come together as the movie goes along, re-enforcing one valuable lesson that can’t be overstated enough — men suck.
I mean, there are a lot of lessons and messages that are going on throughout Roma if you’re looking for them, but that’s a big one and it’s one our world desperately needs to here.
What really impresses me about this movie, though, is its lack of urgency or dramatic storytelling.
Roma, really, is just the day-in-the-life of Cleo and all of the challenges and joys that she experiences. Many of these challenges or joys aren’t even related to each other, but rather exists just to show us what someone like Cleo has to encounter in everyday life.
That’s pretty revolutionary for a couple of reasons. While we may have seen similar slice-of-life movies before (The Florida Project is one of the better ones that instantly comes to mind), there really haven’t been all too many that focus on Mexican culture like this — at least, there haven’t been too many that have gotten the same kind of buzz and attention Roma has been receiving.
For some, Roma can then be something of a learning experience. For others, it’s a chance to finally see their culture and lifestyle shared in cinema.
For everyone, though, this is a chance to watch a really matter-of-fact and — I’m going to use this word again — simple story that depicts how we might not be so different from other members in society than we might think.
When the film starts out, Cleo and Sofia seem like they’re on complete opposite ends of the spectrum. We hardly even see the two of them interact together as they’re both so caught up in their own jobs and responsibilities. As the film goes on, though, we see them brought together by the randomness of life — or rather, unexpected events that don’t care what social status you might obtain.
Sometimes, these events are quite tragic (there’s one scene in here that had me in tears), but sometimes they can just be moments of pure relief or happiness in having some kind of connection — best represented, I think, by a scene that takes place on a beach towards the very end of the film.
Either way, the point here is that life doesn’t spare anyone. Regardless of how much money you have, there’s going to be all kinds of highs and all kinds of lows that keeping chugging along no matter what.
In that, there’s this really sweet charm to Roma that’s almost hard to put into words. Somehow, someway Cuarón made this movie in which not a whole lot really happens still feel so important, welcoming and oddly comforting. Roma is like a warm hug letting you know that while everything might not be alright, you’re not the only one who feels this way.
It also can’t be overstated just how beautiful looking this movie is. While Roma has already been released straight to Netflix, it’s still well-worth seeking out in a theater (even though, who are we kidding, only cinema purest are really going to be the ones who do so). Shot entirely in black-and-white, there’s nothing gimmicky or too stylish about the filmmaking here, either. It all just adds to the overall beauty of what Roma really is.
What Roma really is, of course, is an absolute must-see of a movie that’s so remarkable for so many reasons. Don’t miss this one and, if impossible, find a theater near you that’s showing it.
Check out the trailer for Roma here and then let us know, in the comments below, what you thought of the film!
'Roma' - A near-perfect slice-of-life film [REVIEW]10