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Cottonwood Heights Journal

Dan's Review: "Roma" is Cuarón’s beautiful cinematic masterpiece

Dec 14, 2018 11:36PM ● By Dan Metcalf

Marco Graf, Yalitza Aparicio, and Daniela Demesa in Roma - © 2018 Netflix.

Roma (Netflix)

Rated R for graphic nudity, some disturbing images, and language.

Starring Yalitza Aparicio, Marina de Tavira, Fernando Grediag, Jorge Antonio Guerrero, Marco Graf, Daniela Demesa, Carlos Peralta, Nancy García, Diego Di Cort, Verónica García.

Written and Directed by Alfonso Cuarón.



Some autobiographical films have the curse of being exclusively interesting to the auteur and his/her close associates. Others stray a little far from the truth, with grand embellishment or omission of relevant facts. Alfonzo Cuarón’s Roma is a recollection of his youth and his family’s relationship with their nanny/housekeeper Cleo.

Cleo (Yalitza Aparicio) is a young woman who lives with an affluent family in Mexico City in the early 1970s. The father Antonio (Fernando Grediaga) is a doctor who spends a lot of time away from the family, supposedly on business trips. The mother Sofia (Marina de Tavira) keeps the family together when Antonio runs off with his mistress. Meanwhile, Cleo dates Fermin (Jorge Antonio Guerrero), a violent young man who studies martial arts. When Cleo becomes pregnant with Fermin’s baby, he abandons her in a movie theater. Sofia has compassion and gets Cleo the healthcare and support she needs. Months later, Cleo’s water breaks in the middle of a violent protest between activists and government forces. She is rushed to the hospital, where the baby is delivered stillborn. To help her get over her loss, Sofia invites Cleo on a family trip to a beach resort, not as a domestic, but as part of the family. During a swim in the ocean, two of the children nearly drown, and Cleo, despite not knowing how to swim, jumps in to try and save them.

Roma is Cuarón’s heartfelt and personal family story, and a beautiful homage to the woman who helped raise him as a child. Besides the emotional scenes and heartbreaking experiences in the film, Roma is a film with incredible cinematography (shot in black and white) that showcases the beauty and harsh realities of Mexican life. Yalitza Aparicio’s understated and genuine performance compliments the visual beauty of Cuarón’s recollection.

Roma is a great cinematic achievement that may not resonate with audiences looking for a more substantive and linear story, complete with a compelling soundtrack and flashy effects. The scene at the beach is the most powerful scene in the film and accomplishes great tension and emotion without using epic camera movements, choppy editing or melodramatic music.

Roma (in Spanish with English subtitles) is a movie that finds beauty in its simplicity while delivering a human experience that is altogether stunning and sincere. 

Roma Trailer