Movie Review - Roma (2018)
The film is in black-and-white and is in fact in two foreign languages. The first is Spanish and the second is Mixtec. Mixtec is the language of the indigenous people of the same name who lived in Mexico prior to that land being conquered and colonized by Spain. Mexico is a combination of European people and so-called Native Americans or native people. Given that this film is about a young Mixtec woman working for a European family as a maid and apparent nanny, it gives you an idea of the power dynamic at work here and the power dynamic that Cuarón is possibly trying to expose.
It reminded me of the late Bernardo Bertolucci's The Dreamers (2003), which is set against the backdrop of the 1968 Paris student riots. This film doesn't have the same subject matter, but it is set against the backdrop of similar, political unrest in the 1960's and 70's. In fact, Cuarón specifically references the Corpus Christi massacre on June 10, 1971. It was a massacre that sprang from the Student Movement of 1968, which were protests by Mexican students and others due to economic inequality and government repression. While the film references these issues, it never delves into them with much depth. It's superficial in dealing with those issues.
Cuarón is known for his long, one-take shots that are unedited or unbroken. That opening scene is one such example. It's great for establishing the work that Cleo has to do and the space in which she works. We see the family's dog at the end of that shot, and it's not until later that we learn that the dog is the reason for her needing to wash that floor. None of the shots are as frenetic or hand-held, which increases the difficulty of the shot, as the infamous long, one-take in Children of Men. Most of the shots are fixed and merely tilt up or pan right or left. One shot early has the camera locked down but spin around a full 360 degrees in a circle.
Eventually, it gets to a point in that sequence where we see Cleo giving birth, which is incredible. That point is what's the standout. Yet, all of the stuff leading up to it was rather unnecessary. There is a sequence at the end where the camera is locked down, but it's locked down in the ocean as huge waves wash over Cleo and the children. It's probably the best shot in the film, other than the opening shot.
Marina de Tavira co-stars as Sofi, the mother of the family. She gives a good performance as a woman whose husband is not around and who has to hold things together by herself. She's dealing with the fact that her marriage is possibly dissolving. Jorge Antonio Guerrero plays Fermín, the boyfriend of Cleo. He talks about being from the slums, getting involved with the wrong crowd and being "saved" through martial arts. He appears to be a link to the Corpus Christi massacre. That massacre featured a paramilitary of young men wielding bamboo or kendo sticks, which we see Fermín possess. Cuarón though is less concerned with Fermín's politics as he is with his naked body, which we see in full monty.
Rated R for full frontal male nudity, some disturbing images and language.
Running Time: 2 hrs. and 15 mins.
Available on Netflix.