Wednesday, January 9, 2019

“Roma”: The most overhyped movie of 2018?

Roma written and directed by Alfonso Cuaron (Gravity) has received almost universal acclaim and is considered a front-runner for the Best Picture Academy Award this year. Set in 1970 and 1971 and filmed in black and white, it’s a semi-autobiographical telling of Cuaron’s life growing up in Mexico City. The film centers on the life of Cleo, a live-in housekeeper to a middle-class family.

Cleo works in the household of Sofia, her husband Antonio, a doctor, their four children, and Sofia’s mother Teresa. Cleo is beloved by the children in the household where the marriage between Sofia and Antonio is deteriorating.

During her time off, Cleo and her boyfriend Fermin rent a room instead of seeing a movie with fellow live-in maid Adela and her boyfriend. In their rented room, Fermin shows off his martial arts skills using a curtain rod (naked, which is totally gratuitous). It’s an odd scene, but a clue that all is not right with Fermin and this relationship.


What happens next is a series of (inevitable) events that make the film seem more like a documentary than a drama. There is no attempt at character development. Cleo, as a character is likeable enough, but we never really get to know her outside of her tasks as a maid and nanny.

Technically the film has also been heralded, especially the black and white cinematography. Why this is the case I’m not sure. Roma’s cinematography seems rather pedestrian and ordinary to me. Perhaps the folks praising the cinematography have never seen a decent black and white film before. Or maybe I’ve been corrupted by the dynamic black and white cinematography of the likes of James Wong Howe, Greg Toland, Joseph LaShelle, and Nicholas Musuraca—they’re all worth Googling if you’ve never heard of them.

But the film’s biggest crime, in my opinion, is that it’s boring. I forced myself to sit through the entire 135 minutes. I kept hoping that something would happen to reward my endurance, but I was disappointed.

Roma is the type of film that critics love, but that few people would pay money to see. The film distributed by Netflix had a brief release so it could qualify for the Oscars. It’s been available on Netflix for several months.


Screenplay by Alfonso Cuaron; Directed by Alfonso Cuaron; Produced by Alfonso Cuaron, Gabriela Rodriguez, Nicolas Celis for Participant Media and Esperanto Filmoj; Distributed by Netflix.

Yalitza Aparicio as Cleodegaria “Cleo” Gutiérrez, one of the family’s maids
Marina de Tavira as Sofia, the mother of the family
Fernando Grediaga as Antonio, Sofia’s absent husband
Jorge Antonio Guerrero as Fermín, Cleo’s lover
Marco Graf as Pepe
Daniela Demesa as Sofi
Diego Cortina Autrey as Toño
Carlos Peralta as Paco
Nancy García as Adela, Cleo’s friend and one of the family’s maids
Verónica García as Teresa, Sofia’s mother
José Manuel Guerrero Mendoza as Ramón, Adela’s lover
Latin Lover as Professor Zovek


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