The winner of 2018’s Golden Lion award at Venice Film Festival and frontrunner for Best Foreign Film at the Academy Awards is Alfonso Cuarón’s Roma.
Titled after the neighbourhood in Mexico City where the director grew up, Roma is based on Cuarón’s childhood growing up in 1970s Mexico. However, the focus of the film is not on a younger version of himself, instead opting to focus on the female characters within this upper-middle-class family.
Mother Sofía (Marina de Tavira) and live-in-maid, native Mexican Cleo (Yalitza Aparicio, a non-professional actor giving a wonderful debut performance) find their lives unravelling at the same time. The director inspects and exposes the nuances of their relationship: Sofía’s condescending attitude towards Cleo definitely has a racial foundation, but the relationship between the two is nonetheless a caring one.
In the early moments of the film it feels almost as if the scenes play out real life, with the drama building up slowly without disrupting the household.
With male support lacking, the two must look out for themselves and each other. While Cleo gives all her love and affection to Sofía’s children, she repays the maid, providing her with the best medical care through her high-society contacts at the hospital where she used to work as a biochemist.
Their role as women is to clean up after the men in their lives, with the same composure with which Cleo washes dogshit off the courtyard every day before Sofia’s husband comes home.
Shot in black and white, the film has a hyper-realistic and neo-realistic feel to it. Cuarón’s technical virtuosities as a cinematographer as well as director are the only things that come in the way of a perfect film which celebrates the women who raised him.
Image credit: Movie DB