Roma (2018) Director: Alfonso Cuarón
Roma offers a deeply personal glimpse into the life of an indigenous Mexican housekeeper between 1970-1971 and her incredible struggle to remain stable amidst unfathomable obstacles. “Roma” is the name of a neighborhood in Mexico City where Alfonso Cuarón grew up (Cuarón was also the notable director of such films as Y tu mamá también, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Children of Men, and Gravity). He was apparently mostly raised by a housekeeper not unlike Cleo (Yalitza Aparicio) in the film. As in his other works, such as Children of Men, the long sweeping frames in Roma convey an extraordinary attention to detail.
This is a film that takes its time. Shot in black and white, we experience the true suffering of Cleo in a stripped-down, patient manner as she provides daily care and chores to a wealthy household. One day, she becomes pregnant by her boyfriend and he immediately disowns her. It is a tragic and stressful affair but Cleo seems to simply accept her fate. Her situation is contrasted with that of her employer, Sofia (Marina de Tavira), whose marriage is falling apart. The two women support one another, leading up to the outbreak of the Corpus Christi Massacre in 1971 who forces Cleo into early labor amidst a remarkably vast recreation of the historical event. When she finally arrives at the hospital surrounded by crowds of people and traffic, her baby is tragically delivered stillborn. It is a heartbreaking scene which gives us the utmost sympathy for Cleo –scenes like these are bit too hard to fully embrace sometimes. In the end, Cleo and Sofia visit the coast with the children and Sofia announces that her marriage has fallen apart. Then Cleo makes a troubling admission: that she never wanted the baby to be born. Then they return home where the story almost returns to its beginning.
Many critics have made note of the various classical cinematic allusions in Roma, such as echoes of Fellini, and while I think movies like this highlight Alfonso Cuarón as a master auteur, I find myself more-so drawn to Children of Men and would likely not soon return to Roma due to its somewhat traumatic subject matter. A great deal more might be said, but suffice it to say that Roma is masterful.