Roma (2018) *** Marrakech Film Festival
Dir.: Alfonso Cuaron; Cast: YalitzaAparacio, Marinade Tavira, Nancy Garcia, Fernando Grediaga, Veronica Garcia, Jorge Antonio Guerrero; USA/Mexico 2018, 135 min
Alfonso Cuaron’s sumptuous semi-autobiographical love letter to the woman who influenced his early life unfurls during a year in Mexico City. It’s 1970 and middle-class medics Sofia and Antonio have four children, three aggressive boys and a girl. Meanwhile Cleo and Sofia live high up near the sky, trying to keep the emotionally unstable household going.
Cuaron cleverly establishes the key credentials of the bourgeois set up where people drive enormous cars they can’t even park, and Sofia (de Tavira) is no different. Stressed from Antonio’s frequent absences for work – today he’s off to Montevideo – she earns a decent salary as a biochemist, but has no passion for it. As it turns out, Antonio (Grediaga) will only be gone for a week, but has secretly returned with his mistress. Meanwhile the rest of the family along with caring grandmother Teresa (V. Garcia), are off to spend Christmas on a nearby country estate, where Cleo (Aparacio) and Adela (N. Garcia) will celebrate in the staff quarters. Sofia makes the children write letters to their father, begging him to return, Cleo discovers she’s pregnant by boyfriend Fermin (Guerrero) who is part of a right-wing militia. He takes part in the Corpus Christmas massacre meeting, whilst the women buy a cradle in a nearby department store. Fermin denies fathering Cleo’s child, and he’s dragged away by his friends, to beat up students in the street. Everyday life goes on in this typical story of middle-class Latin America – it’s an evergreen saga thet plays out like a tele-novela but with a transcendence that somehow lifts out of the ordinary. Cuaron pulls out all the stops and the glorious 65mm black-and-white images reflect tension on all levels. Sofia and her mother Teresa are the caring matriarchs. Husband Antonio is seen as cruel, petty and vindictive. Cleo and Adela are the willing victims of class and conditioning, whilse the outside world is shown is a hostile backdrop. Cuaron never breaks with any clichés, but he is unable to be understated and analytical due to his personal links to the narrative. In contrast, Mexican director Lila Aviles, The Chambermaid is a moving yet detached portrait of a hotel worker, echoing similar themes. Roma is graced with some scintillating performances, particularly from newcomers Yalitza Aparacio as Cleo, and Nancy Garcia as Teresa. Overall the on Cuaron is that he’s a brilliant DoP, a good director but a lousy script-writer. AS
NOW ON GENERAL RELEASE | MARRAKECH FILM FESTIVAL 2018 | GOLDEN LION WINNER VENICE 2018