Slice of life, memory play, character study, art house film; these could all apply to director-writer Alfonso Cuaron’s semi-autographical film Roma. Carol has crafted a stream of consciousness film that makes you feel like a voyeur into one family’s life during the course of one year.
The film centers a middle class family living in Mexico City in which both parents work and they have two women who look after the house and the children. Cleo (Yalitza Aparicio), the younger woman is the main character and she is a lovely, sweet natured woman who works morning till night, washing, cleaning and minding the children. The father is often gone and early on leaves for what may be for good as you can see the couple are having marital troubles leaving Sofie (Marina de Tavira) distraught. Cleo, meanwhile, has a life of her own outs of the house and she makes some decisions that put her in some trouble as well. Somehow, the family needs to stick together and Sofia and Cleo come to need each other more than ever.
Roma is almost a silent film. It could tells it’s story without any dialogue at all and you could understand it and be moved by it. Cuaron is really interested in the details and the little things that happen and you miss. I loved that the movie the family goes to see is the science fiction film Marooned (1970). I remember seeing this film when I was a kid and funny enough, that film also has a very leisurely pace as stranded astronauts float in space. The New Year’s Eve celebration in the little village is so amazing, so rich in detail and dissection of the middle class and the servants that work for them but when a fire breaks out in the nearby forest they all must lend a hand to deal with it.
The film moves at a leisurely pace, sometimes a little too leisurely but for the most part, the pace is effective in creating a mood. It’s lyrical and melancholy and absolutely gorgeous to look at. There is very little dialogue and the dialogue that is there is mostly conversational and commonplace. The most unusual and entertaining conversations take place between Cleo and the youngest child, Pepe (Marco Graf). While Cleo is doing the watch on the roof, Pepe comes along and lays down.
Cleo: “Talk to me”
Pepe: “I can’t. I’m dead.”
Cleo then lays down as well, her head pressed against pope’s.
Pepe: “Talk to me”
Cleo: “ I can’t. I’m dead. (Pause) It feels good to be dead.”
Roma may not be everyone’s cup of tea. Our attention span is so much shorter today after being weened on a diet of Marvel films and Fast and Furious spectacles but don’t shy away from this thoughtful, black and white family drama. You may find yourself thankful for the reflective break.