Alfonso Cuarón’s ‘Roma’ is a deeply moving and engrossing portrait of class and motherhood in Roma, Mexico. This is Cuarón’s most personal project, apparently based or loosely based on his memories – this is a film all about memories and is told through beautiful black and white visuals and precise grounded storytelling.
We follow Cleo (Yalitza Aparicio), a maid who lives with an upper-middle class family, the family consists of a grandmother, mother, children and their now estranged-father. The film uses close ups and wide-shots creating an authentic feel to this grounded tale, Cuarón uses extended long takes predominantly which helps convey an intimate sense of belonging – as if we are there looking on the world’s happenings.
Cuarón presents Cleo as a loving young maid, connecting us through the use of innocence and guilt as we see her frequently become a target of anger – yet that love for the family never hides away, it is true. The film has a variety of shocking and jaw dropping moments as we see society and Cleo’s life begin to unravel. This connection is so vital as this feel of sorrow for Cleo and the society she lives in begins to collapsed in a series of shocking scenes as a student protest is interrupted by gun shots, similar to ‘City of God’ the depiction of young teenagers and adults being ripped through with bullets is vividly shown through a series of wide-shots and close ups creating extreme tension and shock in the spectators mind. Lingering on the body’s and those who it affects.
Colour are conveyed in each frame, through the richness of the photography, again Cuarón was his own director of photography and editor – this creates a need to touch what is seen, the cinematography and set design is impeccable capturing the innocence and darkness of the family’s life.
Gut wrenching moments in the family’s life is what helps make this picture so vivid, a certain sea scene uses the sound to rip through the spectators mind as we begin to panick over what we see before us – waves crashing as the camera tracks at head height reeling us in, followed by a moment of love and clarity as our mind’s spill at times of shock and weakness.
Cleo (Yalitza Aparicio) is backed by excellent performances by Marina De Tavira, the mother Sofía and the four children, Paco (Carlos Peralta), Pepe (Marco Graf), Sofi (Daniela Demesa), Toño (Diego Cortina Autrey) and the grandmother (Verónica García) surrounded in by a rich breadth of other supporting actors.
Within all the chaos there are moments of comedy, a certain boyfriend named Fermín is frequently seen as a comic character in his strange obsessions. A martial arts session lead by a ridiculous leader sees the Fermín and his comrades performing a non-violent balancing act that brings out the masculinity from the offensive style of fighting taught, Cleo is able to do this perhaps conveying power over Fermín and his aggressive nature.
This is a director’s film, the style and passion oozes through the screen capitalising on the simplest of techniques to create an atmosphere and feeling that is grounded, yet feels like a dream as you begin to lose yourself in the moving story and clarity portrayed through this clear cut vision of society and class in Mexico.
Roma premiered at Venice and later at Zurich Film Festival in September and Netflix is set to release it in select cinemas