One of the best films of 2018.
Director: Alfonso Cuaron (Gravity)
Cast: Yalitza Aparicio, Marina de Tavira,
Runtime: 2 hr 15 min
By: John DeSando
Set in ‘70’s Mexico City, Roma is a reverie by Oscar-winning director Alfonso Cuaron (Gravity) evoking the period and the lifestyle of an upper-middle-class family and its servants. Although it is not a lyrical reminiscence, parts of its production represent levels of happiness or sadness without shouting the states.
Cleo (Yalitza Aparicio), a young servant in a doctor’s generous home in the Roma section, quietly loves the four children but watches as his wife becomes aware that he will not return from an alleged research job in Canada. As Cleo has her own man problems--the father of her soon due child has left her—the director suggests women are alone in this world, and it would appear, have only each other to rely on.
For the director reminiscer, the times are changing, just as students and police clash, a female doctor is Carla’s obstetrician, and his wife finds substantial work to support the family. Meanwhile Carla loves the children, is a father substitute, and growing friend for the mother.
Cuaron laces his mise en scene with common symbols such as the dog feces constantly on the regularly-scrubbed garage floor and blinds as bars. Dogs roaming throughout the story provide the antidote to the immaculate residence, a sign that reality bites, despite the comfort of a home high above the living standards of most Mexicans.
Throughout the writer/director presents images reinforcing the hidden danger in modern living: martial parades through narrow streets, water down drains, ocean surf almost taking half a family, hospitals so antiseptic as to be surreal, a lover threatening, a Ford Galaxy scraped by too tight a garage, among other representations. Cuaron takes the simple daily life and infuses it with figurative dangers.
Cuaron’s world when he grew up becomes more Darwinian with each recollection. Roma, however, is a beautiful evocation of a bygone era by a director who knows how to combine reality with art. One of the best films of 2018.
John DeSando, a Los Angeles Press Club first-place winner for National Entertainment Journalism, hosts WCBE’s It’s Movie Time and co-hosts Cinema Classics. Contact him at JDeSando@Columbus.rr.com