Cleo (Yalitza Aparicio) is a young maid for a middle class family in Mexico city in 1971. Her job consists of housekeeping, cooking and attending to three children.
As her life and her employer’s life changes with both tragedies and triumphs, the common thread that weaves its way through each moment is the strength of love and family.
“Roma” is the latest film from writer/director Alfonso Cuarón (“Gravity,” “Children of Men,” “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban”) and is loosely based upon his childhood experiences.
Audiences follow Cleo’s sparse, mundane life in the country’s dual-class system of education and social standing.
This black and white period drama is defined by its authenticity and “slice-of-life” portrayals. The heroines quietly shoulder responsibilities while their male counterparts are self-centered, irresponsible and self-involved – prompting the quote “ . . . women are always alone!”
Cuarón offers viewers a peek into several facets of life in Mexico. The beautiful and varied Mexican culture is gorgeously rendered in vivid detail with stunning cinematography. Pictures so vivid we can feel the comfort of a holiday celebration at an inviting Villa. We can capture the complex smells of a vibrant city or feel the pull to escape a run-down village. We witness the life of the wealthy and the poor, the struggles of women and the power of men and government.
Yet, just as Cuarón defines the class system, he quickly softens this distinction by showing their common experiences – love, loss, celebration, socializing and the importance of a family.
Where this film falters is in its mundane narrative. At a lengthy 135 minute running time, the story really kicks in the final 45 minutes. This is far too long of a setup. Although the beauty and skill with which this film is brought to the screen is worthy, this is not enough for the average moviegoer.
The inexperienced cast gives excellent performances revealing a layered narrative of life and its constant hurdles, but also, of love and its strengthening effect.
“Roma” is Alfonso Cuarón homage to his nanny and the theme that love transcends generations, ethnicities and socioeconomic status. The beauty, care and skill by which this film is created is outstanding, but the pacing will limit audience enthusiasm.