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Roma

Roma

By Joanna Langfield

Like any art at its greatest, Alfonso Cuaron’s autobiographical drama lets us see things we have seen before in a way we may never have seen them before.

An exquisitely shot memory of his youth is told not from the child’s perspective, but mostly from the young domestic’s who helped raise him. Cleo, as beautifully played by a remarkable Yalitza Aparicio, initially looks like so many other women of her circumstance, quiet, committed, perhaps most comfortable with the children of the upper middle class household in which she feels fortunate enough to work. We discover, maybe just as she does, Cleo is so much more than all that. A woman with complicated desires of her own, Cleo must balance her story with that of her employers’, a family in turmoil, and her country’s, a sharply divided nation on the verge of revolution.

For all that it encompasses, and almost as a side note, the film does cover a lot of territory, intimate and huge, this is very much a story of a family, a patchwork of grandmothers and friends, rambunctious children and loyal employees. Even at their worst, everyone is pretty much a joy to be around. Filmed in magical blacks and whites, everything feels as warmly hazy as it does aware and observant. We discover the man Cleo loves may have other priorities, the family she cares for may not be the safe haven she once thought it was. It is how the eventually re-aligned group, under the strained guidance of mother a wonderful Marina de Tavira, finds its own way that is as familiar as it is sad. What leaves us walking on air though is not just the artistic retelling of all this, but its conclusion, which is as open hearted and resilient as are the women to whom this film is dedicated.

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