Cleo Gutierrez (Yalitza Aparicio) is one of two live-in maids maintaining the home of Antonio (Fernando Grediaga) and Sofia (Marina de Tavira), couple in crisis with four young children. They can afford the help, which includes a chauffeur, because he’s a prominent physician. But they also need the staff, since Antonio spends so much time supposedly attending “conferences in Canada.”
The delinquent dad explains his absence to the kids as being away on business. However his long-suffering wife suspects that he’s just up to monkey business with his mistress, which explains why she’s not above begging him to cancel a trip. Luckily, Sofia has a shoulder to cry on in her mother, Teresa (Veronica Garcia), who lives with them, too.
Meanwhile, Cleo and her fellow nanny, Adela (Nancy Garcia), dutifully assume the bulk of the child-rearing and housekeeping duties. Both of these servants hail from humble roots, being uneducated peasants of Mixteco, native Mexican heritage.
Yet, like typical young women, they do dream of someday escaping their lowly station to start families of their own. And each has a romantic interest. Cleo’s is Fermin (Jorge Antonio Guerrero), a cousin of Adela’s boyfriend, Ramon (Jose Manuel Guerrero Mendoza).
The plot thickens the evening the two couples go on a double date to a movie theater. Against her better judgment, Cleo leaves early with Fermin who has reserved a motel room where they share an evening of passionate, unprotected sex.
She ends up pregnant, and a moment of truth arrives when her baby-daddy reacts badly to the news that he’s about to become a father. So, now she has to worry whether she’ll be fired when she tells Sofia that she’s knocked up.
Thus unfolds Roma, a semi-autobiographical, dysfunctional family drama written and directed by Alfonso Cuaron. Set in Mexico City in the Seventies, this impressionistic saga shot in black & white more than makes up in atmosphere what it might lack in meaningful dialogue.
Kudos to Cuaron for crafting such a visually-captivating, surreal memoir of his troubled coming of age!
Excellent (4 stars)
Rated R for profanity, disturbing images, and graphic nudity
In Spanish and Mixtec with subtitles.
Running time: 135 minutes
Production Companies: Esperanto Filmoj / Participant Media