Directed by Alfonso Cuarón
Country: Mexico / USA
Versatility and competence are two valuable attributes of Mexican writer/director Alfonso Cuarón, demonstrated in peculiar works like Y Tu Mama Tambien (2001), Children of Men (2006), and Gravity (2013). Yet, none of the above delivered so much personal intimacy and cinematic maturity as Roma, a flawlessly shot drama based on his childhood memories when he was living in Mexico City’s Colonia Roma neighborhood in the early 1970s.
The story focuses on Cleo (Yalitza Aparicio), a humble Mixtec maid working for a middle-class family nearly shattered by the absence of its patriarch, Antonio (Fernando Grediaga), a respected doctor. At the moment that this man decided to abandon the household, his wife Sofia (Marina de Tavira) takes the responsibility of raising four children with the priceless help of Cleo, who also shares other domestic duties with her co-worker Adela (Nancy García García).
The camera captures the routines and dynamics of the family through glorious black-and-white frames polished to compositional precision. The extraordinary cinematography is credited to the director himself, who also co-produced and co-edited. Concurrently, we follow Cleo’s personal problems with her boyfriend, Fermin (Jorge Antonio Guerrero), an immature thug from the slums and martial arts practitioner, who dumps her ruthlessly in the same minute she informs him about a possible pregnancy.
Taken by frustration and disappointment, the two vulnerable women lean on each other, forging a moving companionship where there is no place for social class stratification. All the guilt, trauma, and pain are attenuated by the love and warmth within the family, regardless of the difficulties that might exist. Sofia and Cleo are brave women, whom Cuarón wanted to thank and honor. And he did it marvelously.
The simple and realistic storytelling discloses individual complexities that made me care for these characters with all my soul. The touching finale is one of the most powerful scenes of a deeply humane film where hope triumphs in times of adversity.
While the performances are immaculately genuine, Cuarón’s unparalleled direction convinced me in every aspect since he never loses focus with trivialities. Every scene is there for a purpose, not by chance. Despite the evocation of another time, connections with the current state of the world can also be established in Roma, an illuminated tale of gratitude and one of the most gratifying experiences I’ve had this year in a theater.