Set in director Alfonso Cuarón’s hometown of Mexico City circa 1970, Roma follows Cleo (Yalitza Aparicio), a young Mixtec housekeeper caring for an upper-middle-class family in the Colonia Roma neighborhood. Life progresses with a day-in-day-out regularity: Father goes to work, Cleo takes care of the children and cooks, Father comes home. On her free days, Cleo hangs out with friends, goes to the movies, meets a boy, Toño (Diego Cortina Autrey), and falls in love. Then things shift. As Cleo sits in a hotel bedroom, Toño shows off his chiseled physique and impressive bo skills. He explains that martial arts saved him from himself, and Cleo sits quietly and listens. In another movie, this might be the moment when true love starts to blossom, but above Cleo’s head is a painting of a turbulent sea, waves crashing against cliffs and a boat helplessly adrift.
There’s a storm brewing in Cleo’s world, too.
Rooted in Cuarón’s memories, Roma is a love letter to the woman who raised him and the city he called home. Using the ALEXA 65—a digital camera that mimics 65mm film with surprising results—and utilizing a rich, incomparable soundscape, Cuarón deftly sets up this world and patiently watches as it falls into discord. When Father abandons his family for a mistress, wife Sofía (Marina de Tavira) must search for employment to support her three children and Cleo. And when Toño does the same to Cleo, Sofía and Cleo find themselves cast overboard without life jackets. But Cleo learns to swim, so to speak, and Sofía finds the family she’s had all along. Streaming on Netflix.
A version of the above review first appeared in the pages of Boulder Weekly Vol. 26, No. 17, “In praise of the shared experience.”
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