About his newest film, Roma, Alfonso Cuarón has stated, “There are periods in history that scar societies and moments in life that transform us as individuals. Time and space constrain us, but they also define who we are, creating inexplicable bonds with others that flow with us at the same time and through the same places. Roma is an attempt to capture the memory of events that I experienced almost fifty years ago.” In Roma, we witness a year in the life of Cleo (Yalitza Aparicio). She’s a young maid to a middle class family in Mexico City, where political turmoil is brewing. Over the year, Cleo gets pregnant and together with the family faces abandonment and harrowing life and death situations.
Cuarón captures some amazing details that feel right out of an old memory. The badly-tuned marching band coming down the street, the car that can barely fit in the gated driveway, and a home full of taxidermy old dogs feel like weird snippets from childhood memories. Even the way the camera pans through the family home feels nostalgic.
One of my favorite scenes is the New Year’s Eve party that turns into a wildfire. The image of all these people outside in their party attire, holding drinks and passing buckets of water around to throw on the fire is amazing. Add in the kid in his astronaut outfit and that one guy in the big costume singing makes the whole thing feels wonderfully surreal. His singing mixed with screams as the tree falls one of the best moments of the film.
I feel a need to warn readers of one of the most intensely heartbreaking moments I have ever seen in film. ***Spoiler Alert*** The scene depicts Cleo giving birth to a stillborn baby. The camera unflinchingly captures the whole scene in one long shot, which I’ve heard was only done once and with real doctors for authenticity. It is so very authentic and as a mother to two young children it is heart wrenching. I was shocked and so upset by the scene that I had to pause the film until I had stopped sobbing. I’m so glad this was on Netflix so I didn’t cause a scene in a theater. Never has a film made me cry so hard, ever.
Roma is nominated for an astounding ten Academy Awards. These include best foreign language film, cinematography, original screenplay, production design, sound editing, sound mixing and Best Picture. Yalitza Aparicio, who has never acted before is nominated for best actress. Marina de Tavira is nominated for best supporting actress. And Cuarón has earned his second nomination for best director.
The roles of men and women in Roma are drastically different. The men, mainly Antonio and Fermin, abandon their families. Antonio is so clueless that his own children see him out running the streets with his mistress. And Fermin is so heartless he cruelly tells Cleo to leave him alone and is part of the riot that breaks out. It’s awful to see him pointing a gun at his unborn child. Whereas, the roles of women are to keep order in the face of all this chaos. Cleo keeps house and gets ready for a baby. Sofia keeps her family together. And in the climatic beach scene, Cleo saves two of the children, despite not being able to swim. I think it’s easy to see Cuarón respects the women in his life who have faced so much adversity.
“We are alone. No matter what they tell you, we women are always alone.”