Roma (2018)

Director: Alfonso Cuarón
Writer: Alfonso Cuarón
Cast: Yalitza Aparicio, Marina de Tavira, Diego Cortina Autrey, Carlos Peralta, Marco Graf, Daniela Demesa, Nancy García García, Verónica García, Andy Cortés, Fernando Grediaga, Jorge Antonio Guerrero, José Manuel Guerrero Mendoza, Latin Lover
Seen on: 20.2.2019

Cleo (Yalitza Aparicio) is the maid of a middle class family in Roma, a part of Mexico City. She takes care of the family’s four children Toño (Diego Cortina Autrey), Paco (Carlos Peralta), Pepe (Marco Graf) and Sofi (Daniela Demesa). The mother of the children, Sra Sofía (Marina de Tavira) relies totally on her. When Cleo becomes pregnant while Sofía’s husband (Fernando Grediaga) is out of the country for business, they become closer still.

I probably expected too much of Roma, with all the accolades it got and it being a Cuarón film. But I found it disappointingly flat overall.

Cleo (Yalitza Aparicio) in a tight hug with four children and Sra Sofía (Marina de Tavira) on the beach.

I always expected Roma to kind of problematize the relationship between Cleo and Sofía – there is a power imbalance here that the film constantly dances around, focusing rather on the fact that they are such good friends. They are not. They are employer and employee, and the film would like to forget that for the most part (like most [white] people who have maids or similar employees [of color] who like to pretend that they are friends with the people they employ until a problem comes up). It’s probably the film’s biggest weakness that it doesn’t delve into that particular dynamic.

I also expected that something very bad would happen to Cleo and when it doesn’t, I was very surprised, though not unpleasantly so. Still, the ending, when all is well, felt rather meh to me. But it’s hard to have a more than meh ending when the film leading up to it already is not the strongest.

Cleo (Yalitza Aparicio) sitting next to Sra Sofía (Marina de Tavira) on the sofa, hugging Sofía's son Pepe (Marco Graf).

The film is pretty to look at, although the black and white felt a little pretentious. And it is certainly very good when it touches on the political events of Mexico in 1970 in the background of Cleo’s life. Plus, the birth scene was so excellently done, it was really tough to watch, so compliments for that.

So it’s not like the film doesn’t have anything to offer. But it does feel like a bit of a missed chance – a more critical look at the power dynamics here could have made the film so much better, I think.

Cleo (Yalitza Aparicio) doing the laundry.

Summarizing: a little disappointing.

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