The last Alfonso Cuarón film has triggered several opinions of the audience. Many people consider it as the next Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film winner, while others think it is overvalued by critics. Although, one thing is true: the stories of domestic life will never go out of fashion in the cinema.
In many houses are invisible, almost part of the building. They are not even greeted with a kiss upon arrival, nor are thanked at the end of the day when they have to come back home, exhausted. They are not asked of how the weekend was of what they did in holydays. There is no time for that triviality, it only matters that everything would be ok when the whole family be resting at home.
Time is what they lack in order to live their own lives, and gratitude is what we owe them for years of sacrifice. Considered as any domestic work, being a home counselor -or better known in our country as “nanas” – involves something much deeper than cleaning a room or washing other people’s clothes: it is an intimate link between the members of the household and the employee, where the boundaries between personal life and work are constantly blurred.
Without being able to give more details of the plot, the scenes following the massacre are a faithful reflection of the relationship between the family and its employee, where its history, its past and practically its humanity are unknown, becoming a moment of deep reflection for the audience.
The film Roma by Alfonso Cuarón (Gravedad, Y tu mamá también) exposes that reality: the role of home counselors in the family. Rescuing passages of his own childhood, the Mexican director tells the story of Cleo, a domestic servant of a wealthy family of 1970 who lives in Colonia Roma, in Mexico City. This sector is the same where the house of Cuarón was located as a child. A relevant fact: all the spaces shown in the film are a reconstruction of those memories.
Cleo, a character played by Yalitza Aparicio and inspired by the director’s own domestic employee, Liboria Rodríguez, works “live-in” with her partner Adela (Nancy García García). These women, of Mixtec origin, live in a small room behind the main house and their tasks can last all day: from raising the children in the morning to going to school to bring a glass of water to their employers before sleep. Both are concerned day to day to maintain order and cleanliness of the home of others, as if it were their own home.
The film takes place in black and white and slowly, detailing daily situations in the lives of these women and their work, such as giving breakfast to the children or carefully cleaning the patio tiles. It gives the feeling that we are also part of that house and its stories, however, a deep internal crisis begins to transform the routine of this perfect family and the same life of Cleo, streamlining the story.
Gender inequality, marginality and discrimination constantly accompany its protagonist, who is also exposed to different dangers of the time: The Corpus Christi massacre in 1971 meant the death of more than one hundred students in the hands of a group of paramilitaries, fact that also affected Cleo, who was in the place of the facts accompanied by the grandmother of the family.
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Without being able to give more details of the plot, the scenes following the massacre are a faithful reflection of the relationship between the family and its employee, where its history, its past and practically its humanity are unknown, becoming a moment of deep reflection for the audience. The role of women at the time is also questioned when Sofía, the mother of the children, tells Cleo that “it does not matter what they tell you, we will always be alone”. Regardless of the social class or the privileges that may have one over the other, both are women limited by their gender.
Netflix premiere and reception
Roma had its debut in August at the Venice International Film Festival, taking the prize for best film. She was also selected in the same category by the Film Critics Association of Los Angeles, Chicago, New York and San Francisco, to later be the representative film of Mexico in the Oscar race.
In addition to premiering in different movie theaters around the world, the film is available on Netflix, a streaming platform that is slowly becoming a space in the film industry. And it is there where he has received his main criticisms: different users think that it is a very slow story, that the characters are not sufficiently developed or that much attention is given to scenes that really do not matter much. For its part, traditional critics say it is a film that must be seen on a big screen to admire every detail and decision made by Cuarón in his direction, production and photography.
Whatever the best visualization option, whether in cinema or on television, Roma has become a must-see for the season and a great reflection of Mexican and Latin American society in general. For Chile, the film is available on Netflix, at Cine Arte Normandie and the Cineteca Nacional.
Original Title: Roma
Lenght: 135 min.
Director: Alfonso Cuarón
Script: Alfonso Cuarón
Photography: Alfonso Cuarón, Galo Olivares (B&W)
Cast: Yalitza Aparicio, Marina de Tavira, Marco Graf, Diego Cortina Autrey, Carlos Peralta, Daniela Demesa, Nancy García García, Verónica García, Latin Lover, Enoc Leaño, Clementina Guadarrama, Andy Cortés, Fernando Grediaga, Jorge Antonio Guerrero