STARS: Yalitza Aparicio, Marina de Tavira, Jorge Antonio Guerrero
DIRECTOR: Alfonso Cuaron
Before viewing Alfonso Cuaron's Roma, I highly recommend you familiarize yourself with the Corpus Christi Massacre of 1971--where Mexican government agents murdered 120 student protesters. Otherwise you will see what's going on, but you won't know the reasons behind it.
Roma--based on director Cuaron's childhood memories--follows the daily life of Cleo (newcomer Yalitza Aparicio), a young domestic worker for an upper middle class family in Mexico City's Roma neighborhood. It will require some patience on your part during the first half of the film, because it's slow, but the payoff is in spades later on. There are kids running around being kids, a grandmother, and a neglected spouse (Marina De Tavira) pining for her husband who is off enjoying the company of his mistress while telling the family he's on a business trip.
What is remarkable here is that this family seems so utterly real...in fact it's hard to believe that any of the kids cavorting and jousting with one another, Cleo going about her daily chores, and a spirited dog who craps all over the place were rehearsed. For good reason, as Cuaron acknowledges that for many of the scenes, nobody had scripts (especially the dog.)
Cleo has a very scary boyfriend (Jorge Antonio Guerrero), a radical martial arts enthusiast who gets her pregnant and then disappears, though he will figure in prominently during the latter portion of the film's recreation of the turbulent student revolt and the government's violent criminal reaction. The climactic scene, where Cleo is called upon to be the heroine, is jaw-droppingly powerful.
It is Cuaron's masterful touch with both the scenes of mundane family activity and the events occurring on a grand scale with a "cast of thousands" that sets Roma apart not only in the foreign movie category at The Golden Globes-- where it won for Best Director and Best Foreign Film--but I dare say against any other film out there.
Expect more recognition for Roma at The Oscars. It's currently playing in theaters and streaming on Netflix. See it on the big screen if you can!
My advice? Never see a movie after watching an awards show. Your expectations are bound to cause disappointment. Such was the case with me and Roma. After so much high praise from the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA), I assumed I'd be seeing the likes of La Dolce Vita or The Bicycle Thief. Well at least it was in black and white.
A second piece of advice? Never watch a movie with subtitles on a 41" TV. (Especially after you've had a big dinner and are feeling sleepy!)
I was not awed by Roma. Noisy kids and shitting dogs do not, for me, make a cinematic masterpiece. Granted, the scene where Cleo rescues her charges from drowning is worth the price of admission. As is the frontal nude scene of her worthless boyfriend demonstrating his skill as a martial artist. But lordy, lordy. This movie has the speed of a somnolent sloth! It was all I could do to stay awake until the end credits. Of course, I should have known Roma would be slow-moving based on the endless water-splashing opening credits.
Sorry, folk. Not my cup of pulque.
Grade: C -