Roma – A Well Told Story

Rating (4 out of 5)

Summary: “Roma” is available on Netflix and definitely the best film available on their service. A quality story “Roma” maintaining your interest to see what happens to Cleo and the family. Added to the quality story, are powerful scenes and images from 1970’s Mexico City, with the only negative to the film being a slow pace.

Warning: “Roma” is a Spanish speaking film, and reading is required, unless you are fluent in Spanish.

Plot:  Cleo (Yalitza Aparicio) is the live-in housekeeper for a middle class family. Cleo deals with her pregnancy while the family handles the divorce during a turbulent year in 1971 Mexico City.

What I Liked: The “Roma” story revolves around a critical time period in Mexican history. While you don’t think the characters grew there was a subltle growth, similar to the characters in “Dazed and Confused”. Both Cleo and Señorita Sofia (Marina de Tavira) grow through their own critical life events, pregnancy, and divorce respectively.

At the beginning of the film, they paint Sofia as a tough bitch, but then when Cleo comes to her hoping she doesn’t get fired for being pregnant, Sofia instead supports and cares for Cleo, a surprising turn for her character. Then as the separation progresses to divorce, you see different aspects to Sofia.

Many scenes offer insights into characters and their plight. Two scenes immediately jump to my mind. The first when the family travels to the mountains to visit family friends of Sofia, the maid/nannies walk the fields with the children. Cleo stops taking in the smells and sights of the fields. She reminisces about her far away home. You realize she isn’t from Mexico City but came to the big city to make a living. Its a beautiful scene (picture below)

Another scene, Cleo shops for a crib with the family grandmother, both are caught in “The Corpus Christi Massacre” when Cleo’s water breaks. The riot impedes their travel to the hospital and there are complications. A few scenes foreshadow the resolution to the pregnancy but the scene remained emotionally powerful.

Also, “Roma” employs arousing imagery and camera shots. Airplanes constantly captured in the background or reflections, the music in the streets to mark a change in acts, the fire and the man in the wooly mammoth costume, etc. There are simply too many images to digest in one viewing and for a film enthusiast, a second and thirding screening will be required to capture and understand everything “Roma” has to offer.

Other shots were unique and are forever rememberable. The shots of the garage with the different cars trying to fit the narrow space. The garage became particularly potent when the dad pulled his car into the garage. The scene demonstrated how he cared more about the car than his family. Another scene has Cleo racing down the sidewalk and the screen follows her from the other side of the street. All really cool shots. All the shots are viewpoints of and outside observer rather than close-ups.

What I Didn’t Like:  The shots of specific view held for a long time frame drain me unless enhancing the tension or enhancing a character. The long shots in “Roma” added little to the overall tension or character development. An example of this long shot is the opening of the film with the audience viewing the tile in the garage being washed.

A long-running time left me a little restless at times. Sacrificing a little of the long boring shots the movie time could have been reduced from 2 hours and 15 minutes to 1 hour 45 minutes. The story would have been maintained, and think the film would appeal to a broader audience.