Director: Alfonso Cuarón’s
Starring: Yalitza Aparicio, Nancy García García
Available on Netflix
Netflix presents a film by Alfonso Cuarón, the director of the space blockbuster Gravity (2013), which starred Sandra Bullock, and the classic Y Tu Mamá También (2001). Cuarón’s Roma takes us to Mexico City in the visually pleasing 70s. We’re invited into the lives of a family who are, to all intents and purposes, rather normal. The kids go to school and play around while a grandmother does her best to spoil them and their mother tries to make her relationship with their father work.
In the midst of this, two house helpers, Adela (Nancy García García) and, our main point of focus, Cleo (Yalitza Aparicio), aid their existence by cleaning after them, preparing meals and generally putting up with their idiosyncrasies, professionally.
These two worlds occupy the same space, a house in the city.
The film is shot in black and white which gives it a lucid feel even when all that’s happening is someone cleaning a floor. Slow panning shots which seem to stretch on forever add to the weight of scenes, gracefully. The black and white instantly transport the viewer back to 1970. You could make postcards, from Mexico with love, by using some of the frames in this feature. It does give things a slow start but it is better to take time with building the characters.
Dr Antonio leaves his wife Mrs Teresa and their kids to go away for work and for a while things go on as usual. The twists in this story are subtle, making it feel very real and movingly sincere in parts. Not to mention the outstanding shot selection and composition.
The soft-spoken Cleo is a humble employee who is almost invisible at times, as is sometimes required when doing this kind of work. Mrs Teresa and Dr Antonio give her grief about the dog mess in their driveway and, every so often, she bares the brunt of their anger. But through it all there is love and it bonds Cleo to Mrs Teresa and the family, particularly the wise and adorable youngest child, Pepe.
When she isn’t at work, Cleo is dating an odd gentleman, Fermin, a karate enthusiast who in one scene shows her his moves with a wind staff, stark naked. She eventually falls pregnant with his baby and fears how her employees will receive this news. She should’ve been more concerned with the trashy karate clown who leaves her and is nowhere to be found.
Simultaneously, Mrs Teresa’s life takes a turn for the worse as Dr Antonio has not been completely honest with her.
This has been one of Netflix’s most successful releases ever, even earning a slightly more extended time in cinemas.
You will have to wait for things to get going but, when they do, this film becomes a tapestry of emotion executed in sublime style.