“A Token of Victory”
Roma is a token of victory for Alfonso Cuaron who has not only made his most personal film but his best. In the early 1970s, Cleo (Yalitza Aparicio) is a full-time maid for a wealthy family in Mexico City. She is loved, appreciated and considered part of the family.
Complications arise when she unexpectedly becomes pregnant. The father of her child cowardly disappears leaving her to deal with the situation herself. Her employer, Sonia (Marina de Tavira) lovingly takes her to the doctor and supports her with every necessity as her own marriage is slowly falling apart and her role as the family matriarch becomes increasingly more demanding.
Yalitza Aparicio’s performance is harrowing and tragic because despite her employer’s love and support, she’s going through her pregnancy without the child’s father and she’s absolutely terrified of the possibilities of the future. The look in her eyes says it all and as much as I would give comfort to this amazing character if I could, I truly wouldn't know what to say to her. The extreme pressure of her circumstances can’t be diminished or rationalized. It’s already taken place and poor Cleo has to deal with it. Given that this is Yalitza’s first film, I don’t know what she plans on doing next, but I hope she continues acting because the grace, kindness and sincerity she brings to her craft is a remarkable example to artists everywhere.
Marina de Tavira’s performance comes from her overall goal to put the truth on full display and the truth is that her world is changing and she’s struggling to maintain normalcy for herself, her children and of course for Cleo. Cleo is like a daughter to her and she can only imagine what she’s going through. As big as their circumstances are, I do think there’s something to be said about the fact that both Cleo and Sonia are going through their own transitions with outcomes that will bring drastic change to the lives they have created for themselves and the children they love. They’re both going through the same thing and their relationship grows deeper through this experience.
The writing is perfect because its disturbance is unapologetic but so is its beauty. The writing lovingly gives the film its themes of responsibility, transition, change, abandonment, love and reality. The cinematography is the best cinematography of the year as the film is in black and white. It all comes from Cuaron’s beautiful memories as the film is based on those, he grew up with in Mexico City. His cinematography captures his memories as though he’s catching a dream in a dream catcher.
The film’s score was absolutely ravishing but what’s so rare about a film like Roma is that’s it’s not really needed. It’s elegant and lovely to have but the films leading ladies are both strong enough to give the film all it needs to fly on its own and most films still need an extra spark that Roma didn't.
If you get through Roma without crying, it’s either because you never cry at movies or you’re a sociopath. Being in the film’s presence is like being in front of strong onions. Roma will stick its hands inside your eyes and without hesitation, pull out all the tears you keep buried within your soul. Get yourself some free time and give yourself the gift of seeing Roma. It’s a love letter to everyone going through their own transitions, no matter what it may be.