The Academy Award winning film Roma (2018) is a “memory piece” based on Mexican director Alfonso Cuarón’s, observations on his childhood and his own family’s longstanding maid Libori Rodriguez. He consulted her on a regular basis while scripting this astonishing family tale. The film won Academy Awards including Best Foreign Language Film of the Year (Mexico), Best Achievement in Directing by Alfonso Cuarón.
Presented to the audience in black and white mode, the film excels in showcasing the mundane reality of life at its purest form. Cuarón has shown this mastery in every film he has made so far.
The story revolves around Cleo (played by Yalitza Aparicio), a housekeeper for a middle-class family of Antonio (Fernando Grediaga), his wife Sofia (Marina de Tavira) in 1970s Mexico. The four children of the family are fond of Cleo, and the story also focuses on their daily lives.
We are introduced to two distinct stories. One the eventual separation of the Sofia and her husband and Cleo’s pregnancy. There is lot more happening around them at the same time as a city is hit by riots. It can be noticed that the chaos that surrounds them only adds to the drama of their situation. But creating a sense of normalcy around them has become essential for both Cleo and Sofia. It also serves as an opportunity to mend a relationship for the two main female characters, who have both been abandoned by men and left to care for themselves. Rest is better left unsaid.
In the second half we are left to analyse and reflect on the harsh realties of life. At one-point Cleo is considered as she were a family member but at the same time, we see Cleo resuming her role as a servant, caring for the household and family. This symbolises how hierarchy played a pivotal role in everyone’s life. There indeed remains a clear barrier between the two and the hierarchy is always in place. There is lot more to the film which unravels the deeper meanings behind mundane events.
The director through his cinematic brilliance has succeeded in bringing an exceptional creation to its viewers. Few might find the long shots a bit boring which is otherwise not used in other films by directors. But it is a deliberate decision made by Cuarón to give us time to take in the moment completely. In other words, we can say that he is teaching us how to watch a film. The abrupt editing style speaks about the fact that the film is a recreation of the memory of the director’s childhood. Each frame has its own significance in portraying the message of the film.
Normally, people prefer to see films in colour, but Roma, although being a black and white film, has a lot to say in terms of expressing dilemmas, emotions, uneasiness, and other aspects of life’s truth. You experience everything that each character is dealing with and that is nothing but the brilliant effort in cinematography and direction. The director’s effort in showing rather than saying makes the film one of a kind.
So, Roma to me is more than just a film, it is an experience any film lover wouldn’t want to miss.
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