Alfonso Cuaron is no stranger to the Academy Awards. His 2001 film Y Tu Mamá También scored a Best Original Screenplay nomination. His 2007 Clive Owen-starring vehicle Children Of Men scored him nominations for Adapted Screenplay and Film Editing. It was not until 2014 when Cuaron scored big, taking home two Oscars for his Film Editing and Directing in his Sandra Bullock film Gravity. With that, Cuaron became the first Hispanic and Mexican filmmaker to win the Oscar for Directing. Now, Cuaron has returned with a personal and emotional story that has garnered ten nominations at this year’s 91st annual Academy Awards.
Roma tells the story of Cleo, a maid to a middle-class family in 1970 Mexico City. The story steadily follows Cleo as she goes about her day-to-day duties for the family. Organizing rooms, folding laundry, setting dinner, washing dishes, feeding the dog, caring for the children; Each moment is given close attention as the viewer is presented with as much attention to detail as Cleo gives to her profession. In between, she finds moments of recreation like meeting up with her boyfriend Fermin, a young man trained in martial arts by a government installation. As time goes by, Cleo discovers a surprising revelation that alters her life and abruptly ends her relationship with Fermin (not by her choice). From here, Cleo attempts to push forward at a time when society’s political atmosphere is at a boiling point, with the love of the family she cares for being the only thing she can depend on.
Roma starts off slowly with the first twenty minutes or so following Cleo in her daily duties. The camera moves slowly from left to right and vice versa as she climbs the stairs and descends them. Whether it’s the heavily decorated interiors of the home or the hustle and bustle of Mexico City, Cuaron’s cinematography beautifully captures every inch of Cleo’s world. Meanwhile, his pacing in the story slowly builds like a slow burn. The viewer is given these minor moments so that they can build a connection with Cleo. She becomes someone we know and feel for so that those heavier, intense moments have a personal effect on the viewer. One of those moments is the Corpus Christi massacre (or El Halconazo), which will not only strike a chord for Mexican historians but also has a bit of a connection to the United States. The massacre itself is already one of gruesome injustice, but Cuaron involves it in the life of our lead character Cleo, building to a heart-wrenching climax.
Cuaron developed this story in honor of Libo, the woman who cared for he and his family when he was a young boy. His love and admiration for her is apparent in the way he developed this story. He created a tale that centers on this devoted caretaker and pieces together the perfect elements to make the viewer care for her as if she were family. Cuaron’s work has paid off as he is once again vying for the Best Director prize as well as Original Screenplay, Cinematography, Best Foreign Film, and Best Picture. Roma has earned every single one of its nominations. Anyone with a Netflix subscription should carve out a two-hour window, place their phone on silent and delve into an emotional story that grips you from beginning to end.
This is Roma.