Mexico, Mexico City, 1970. An affluent area of the city called Colonia Roma. A wealthy family lives in a large house, consisting of Senor Dr. Antonio (Fernando Grediaga), Senora Sofia (Marina De Tavira) and their four children: three boys of various ages and a girl.
The family keeps servants – two indigenous girls: Cleo (Yalitz Aparicio) and Adela (Nancy Garcia Garcia). Adela does most of the cooking, while Cleo takes care of the kids, interacts with the owner and mistress, keeps the overly active dog Barras, who, apparently, no one takes out into the street, so he leaves his waste products in the patio outside the gate, which is used as a garage for Senora Sofia and Dr. Antonio’s cars.
The family will have to go through several upheavals. Some will be connected with purely family problems, others – with what happened in Mexico at that time. Family problems are connected with the fact that Dr. Antonio left his family in some way. He was uncomfortable coming home from work in a huge Ford Galaxie – a solid car for a solid person – that could barely fit into the courtyard behind the gate, he was annoyed by Barras’s poop, which a worthy doctor could get into with a boot, he did not like the noise made by four children , – in general, the doctor pretended that he went on a business trip to Quebec for a long time, and from this “business trip” he did not return to his family, having fled to a young mistress in the same Mexico City. And he decided not to send money to Senora Sophia, because her mistress demands money for her entertainment.
Cleo also had problems. She met a strange gopnik Fermin (Jorge Antonio Guerrero), a fan of martial arts, slept with him, became pregnant from him, and when she announced that she was pregnant, Fermin fled from her in a panic, leaving his jacket.
Also in Mexico of those times, various mass events took place that somehow affected this family.
An incredibly personal picture for director Alfonso Cuarón, and this is his very own “Amarcord”. He was born and raised in Mexico City in Colonia Roma, his family had just such a house, two Indian girls served in the family, the dog Barras was also from his childhood, and Cuaron decided to tell about all this.
According to the director, ninety percent of what is happening in this film comes from his childhood memories. The furniture in the house is partly the same furniture that was in his childhood, partly objects that he borrowed for shooting from the houses of his relatives in Mexico City. The portrait of the lady hanging on the wall is that of Cuarón’s mother.
Federico Fellini in “Amarcord” showed his childhood against the backdrop of what was then happening in Italy during Mussolini’s time, as if through the eyes of himself, then little Federico. Alfonso Cuarón took a different approach: despite the fact that he himself is clearly the prototype of one of the boys of the Antonio and Sofia family, and there is no need to guess who exactly, of course, the youngest boy who is closest to Cleo and who he loves very much, – and so, he shows everything that happens through the eyes of the Indian Cleo. On the one hand, this is such a kind of recognition of Cuaron’s love for the one who looked after him, his brothers and sister in those years, but, on the other hand, it is also a means to demonstrate how this family lived then and what was happening in Mexico in general .
For the role of Cleo, Alfonso specially invited an unprofessional actress: Yalitza Aparicio – from a small village, before filming the film, she was in Mexico City only twice. The director chose her among one hundred and ten applicants, and when he approved Yalitza for the role of Cleo, the role of Cleo’s girlfriend, the second servant girl, went to Yalitsa’s real friend – Nancy Garcia Garcia from the same village: Alfonso believed that this way their relationship would look more natural on the screen, and turned out to be absolutely right.
Other non-professional actors also starred here: Fernando Grediaga, who played Dr. Antonio, and the elderly Veronica Garcia, who played Señora Teresa, Sofia’s mother, the grandmother of her sons and daughter.
Alfonso Cuaron was so fascinated by this picture that he not only became the scriptwriter and director, but also personally shot the film as a cameraman: officially it seemed to be stated that the legendary Emmanuel Lubezki, who won three Oscars, had previously worked with Cuaron on almost all of his films , was busy in another project, but it was clear that in this case, Cuaron had to shoot it himself. He was also the editor of the picture, so “Roma” is an absolutely author’s project.
Why Cuarón didn’t call Lubezki was understandable: he had to show it all with his own eyes – and he did it. And this is really an outstanding camera work, visually the picture impresses immensely!
Cuarón shot the entire film in black and white. In this case, this is quite justified: firstly, this approach creates the effect of a certain time – the times of black and white photographs, and secondly, it allows viewers to concentrate on the details of what is happening.
There are many excellent visual images in the film that are easily read by those viewers who generally know how to pay attention to such things: planes often shown in the frame, the roof where Cleo irons clothes (everything begins and ends with this roof), the courtyard behind the gate, the interiors of the house , an old manor where the family comes for Christmas, the coast of the Gulf of Mexico, in which the waves broke out.
And what about the script? The sensational “Gravity” of this director was visually filmed simply luxuriously, but the plot there was completely primitive up to the complete amazement of me and the cat Bublik.
Regarding this film, many viewers and even some critics write that there is no script at all. This, of course, is sheer nonsense. The script here is very thoughtful and interesting. Yes, the film tells about the slice of life of a Mexican family. So the slice of life is like that. The life of a family, the life of a family, the trials that members of this family go through.
The director is also reproached for the fact that, they say, the personalities of the characters are revealed very little here. Yes, how little? Just look at their actions – they already talk a lot about each of the characters. Indeed, Cleo herself says very little in the picture, but her image is built very clearly and we perfectly understand who she is: a soft and meek person, very fond of the children she cares for, ready for self-sacrifice. And, importantly, there is no “slave-master” relationship here. Yes, these women worked as servants, but they were an important part of the family, and Senora Sofia, who could yell at Cleo for something, took a great part in her fate when it turned out that Cleo was pregnant, and she went to all these expenses, although her financial situation was quite difficult.
For such author’s films, there can be only one criterion: will the director be able to interest the audience with a story about his childhood or not? In fact, few directors make such confessional films – primarily because it is really difficult to make the viewer interested in your childhood memories, which are very important and personal for you, but they are initially completely not close to the audience.
“Amarcord” by Federico Fellini is one of the main examples of such author’s paintings: I saw it in the cinema at the age of fourteen and while watching it I thought that if only it all would not end. Andy Garcia also made a film about his Cuban childhood “The Lost City”, but with all the sincerity of the presentation there were serious flaws both in the script and in the production, so, alas, it probably didn’t work out. Pedro Almodovar made his confessional film Pain and Glory, which was, of course, much closer to Fellini’s Eight and a Half than to Amarcod, and he made an amazing film.
What happened to Alfonso Cuaron? In my opinion – just a masterpiece! This film captivated me completely and completely, and I just could not tear myself away from it. And now everything seems to be simple: there are not so many bright events – basically some kind of solid everyday life, but it captures and draws you in. But, by the way, in addition to everyday life, some significant events for Mexico are very clearly woven here, such as the shooting of a student demonstration in Mexico City on June 10, 1971 – the main character of the film has to face this.
And there is still an episode when Cleo arrives in a certain settlement in search of his gopnik Fermin and quite by chance finds himself at the training session of the then Mexican “tonton makuts” – “Los Alcones”, which consisted of athletes, bandits and outright criminals. It was this formation that took part in the massacre of students.
Interestingly, there is not a single positive male character in the picture. Not a single one at all – apparently, Cuarón had such memories from childhood. Dr. Antonio is a weak-willed scoundrel, besides, he is also a coward. Leaving his wife with four children, hiding behind a fictitious business trip, writing false letters from a “business trip”, while walking around the streets of Mexico City with a young mistress … And in the episode in the maternity hospital, he stumbled upon Cleo, muttering some kind of incomprehension and under a far-fetched escapes with a suggestion. And Fermin is just a complete scoundrel, and even a murderer.
Men in this film create problems, and women resist these problems: Senora Sofia, her mother, Senora Teresa, and, well, quiet, almost imperceptible Cleo.
In the cinema world, “Roma” was received enthusiastically. Endless applause at the Venice Film Festival, a whole waterfall of the most prestigious awards: three Oscars won (out of ten nominations), two Golden Globes, four British BAFTA awards, and in total – as many as 252 awards from a wide variety of film awards and 210 nominations.
Does this picture deserve it? Oh sure! This is an outstanding auteur film that stands out sharply against the backdrop of both the cinematic mainstream and the festival mainstream. In my opinion, Alfonso Cuarón actually shot a masterpiece, in which absolutely everything is perfect: the plot, the staging, the acting, the camera work, and the soundtrack (it is also very special and plays an important role when viewing).
However, as is always the case with purely author’s paintings, not everyone will accept it. Critics – yes, almost all are unanimous, they understand what they are facing. But with the audience – here the opinions, as they say, are divided. Not all viewers are ready to watch such films in the style of “slice of life”, not everyone is interested in watching the life of a Mexican family from the seventies. And then there’s the black and white palette – well, what a longing.
But this is completely normal. There are viewers prepared for the perception of such films, there are unprepared. It’s like with exquisite aged wine: if a person prefers a sweet bourda, then he simply does not understand why everyone admires this wine so much.
PS Many critics in the reviews for some reason write that the production of this film was financed by the streaming service Netflix, so this, they say, is also a triumph for Netflix. Quote from Stanislav Zelvensky: “If Roma wins (Upd: he won), then it will be a festival triumph for the Netflix online platform that produced the project.”
So. It is enough to go to the Company Credits section of this film on IMDB (film critics should know this) to see that two studios took part in the creation of this film – Esperanto Filmoj and Pimienta Films. The film was planned for theatrical release, but in 2018 the streaming service Netflix bought the rights to show this picture. That is, they did not produce this project in any way and did not finance its creation, they simply bought the rights to show it.
And because of this, by the way, they refused to take the picture to the Cannes Film Festival: there was a conflict between the festival management and Netflix and the director, and then the picture went to the Venice Film Festival.
And further. The real name of the very nanny of little Alfonso from childhood is Liboria “Libo” Rodriguez. As an actress, she starred in three Cuarón films: “Love in the Time of Hysteria”, “And Your Mother Too” and Año uña.
Roma movie meaning
Director: Alfonso Cuarón Cast: Yalitza Aparicio, Marina De Tavira, Diego Cortina Autri, Carlos Peralta, Marco Graf, Daniela Demesa, Nancy Garcia Garcia, Veronica Garcia, Andi Cortes, Fernando Grediaga, Jorge Antonio Guerrero
Budget: $15 million
Drama, Mexico, 2018, 135 min.