A simple heart


Film. First film of a VOD platform to receive a big price during a Festival (Lion d’or at the Mostra of Venise), Roma or the virtuoso landing of the Gravity’s director, Alfonso Cuarón. 

By Claire Bonnot 

Since the first sequence shot of this mostly autobiographic film, the tone is given : the pellicle will be esthetic, realistic with a hint (welcomed) of surrealism. Between earth and sky, the trivial and the transcendent, anyway, the story of the life, of a life. That, namely, of the woman who wash, and do it again, a tile in which the passage of an aircraft is reflected. Her name is Cleo (Yalitza Aparicio). She is  a maid of a bourgeois house located in the center of Mexico City in this neighborhood in the name of Italy, Roma, title – at first enigmatic – of the film.

“Cuarón films life in a realistic way, choosing black and white of his memories, the contemplative long travelling, an esthetic realism”

It is the heroin and the mirror of another woman of superior class, her mistress. Both are lovingly filmed by a child become big – Alfonso Cuarón, more famous for his sci-fi films as Gravity or Children of Men. He thus pays a poignant tribute to his mother and his old nanny to whom the film is dedicated : Libo.  

The camera films retail near domestic work carried out non-stop, methodically and almost meekly by Cleo, from room storage, to evening tea, to cleaning dog poop on the entrance tile. This Indian, from Mixtec community, helps contain the daily of four children of a family seemingly perfect. The emblematic Mexican upper middle class of 1970s. 

A world without men 

Harmony doesn’t last, the father pretends a business trip to never come back. At the same time, Cleo is allowed seduce by a young man unscrupulous who run away as soon as the announcement of an unwanted pregnancy. These two women, separated by a class relationship in a distanced hierarchy, find themselves united in shared suffering, then dignified. “No matter what they say, us women are always alone”, will confide the cheated mother to her abused maid.  

If Roma’s men are omnipresent, it’s because of the terrible hole that they contributed to create : the salon finds itself destroyed after the father has recovered his libraries while Cleo’s boyfriend refused violently his paternity resulting – without doubt – in the birth of a stillbirth child, symbol of a unstainable void. Faced to this inhuman behavior, the attitude of these women forces admiration, repressing tears, shouts or apathy and perpetuating as well as evil a family life for the four little ones. 

After taking the moon with Gravity in 2013, awarded of seven Oscars, Alfonso Cuarón comes back on earth, his birth ground and his origins, marking out thus a mural of the humanity subject to reality torment. He films life in a realistic way, choosing black and white of his memories, the contemplative long travelling, an esthetic realism to dissect each detail and feeling, and a heroin played by a novice, Yalitza Aparicio, discovered in a village of Oaxaca. This extreme precision of shots lets loom very lively feelings, as pure as tearing.  

A pop and politic film  

The drama deeply personal context swing between politic references, to a society in full tearing which the climax scene of repression of student’s demonstrations of 1971 (Corpus Christi Massacre), and the pop and quirky side of projections of La Grande Vadrouille (1966) or Marooned (1969). Or a child dressed as a cosmonaut for Christmas, a wink to Gravity. Author film shaping of a historical-family saga, Roma lets itself contemplate as a piece of art where each point of light, each look and each element draw the moments – sublimed and glorified – of a woman life, without unbelievable outcome but with a vivid humanity.