Netflix has received its first nomination for best picture for the Oscars for the film “Roma.” It also received Oscar nominations for Actress in a Leading Role, Actress in a Supporting Role, Cinematography, Directing, Foreign Language Film, Production Design, Sound Editing, Sound Mixing and Writing (Original Screenplay).
The drama takes its name from an upper-class neighborhood in Mexico City. Cleodegaria Gutierrez (Yalitza Aparicio) serves as a housekeeper for the wealthy Sofia (Marina de Tavira) and her husband.
“Roma” begins happily enough. Cleo clearly cares for Sofia’s children. We see black and white scenes of her praying and singing lullabies with them as they fall asleep. The youngest of the brood Paco (Carlos Peralta) puts his arm around Cleo as the family watches television. But this domestic bliss is mixed with a sense of apprehension. Subtle hints are dropped about the political turmoil that plagued Mexico in the 1970’s when the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party was struggling to maintain its grip over the country. The family causally talks of children being shot in the street, and soldiers march through Roma, their trumpets blaring.
Both the men in Cleo and Sofia’s lives betray them; Cleo’s boyfriend Fermin (Jorge Antonio Guerrero) flees a crowded movie theater after Cleo tells him she is pregnant, and Sofia’s husband cheats on her with another woman. However, these men are not portrayed as one-dimensional villains but rather as realistically flawed characters who commit horrible acts because of their own weaknesses.
“No matter what they tell you, we women are always alone,” Sofia tells Cleo drunkenly with a laugh. Cleo and Sofia eventually find strength in one another. In the final scene of “Roma” Sofia and her children embrace Cleo on the windswept beach of Veracruz after Cleo saves the lives of the children who almost drown.
“Roma” is a beautiful but not uplifting film. Aparicio and Tavira’s acting was superb, and the constant black and white lighting gave the film a lovely aesthetic. But the plot was rather slow and not very enjoyable. If you want to watch a film that will make you think about the relationships between men and women, between families, and between classes watch “Roma,” but if you want to watch a movie to enjoy on a Friday night with your friends watch something else.