17 December 2018| No Comments on Roma     by Sean Chavel



The shimmering black and white, but often overlit cinematography is what beckons attention – it screams ART. Beneath the look of the film, there’s a little something there, in what should be looked at as a personal little ditty for director Alfonso Cuaron (“Gravity”). The main character of Roma (Mexico, in English subtitles) is a servant for a wealthy Mexico City family in the early 1970’s, and it’s apparent that she not only cleans the house, but is the glue for the house in getting all the practical domestic things done. Her name is Cleo (Yalitza Aparicio), and she is very meek and soft-spoken, doesn’t demand much, is dutiful, and is absent of offering any unsolicited opinion. In her off hours, she sees a boy, and that sours immediately after she tells him she’s pregnant. The family she works for also has its ups and downs. And Mexico itself is going into its own political tailspin.

“Roma” has a sprawling, slice of life aesthetic, but I never responded to it as a cohesive story. Yet it’s no secret how many people, in advance of its release, have adored the film already. I couldn’t help but watch it and feel for those people that to praise wildly for it is an act of fake sophistication. Nonetheless, I willingly admired it, honest to God, and got something out of it. I looked at it curiously like I would at a fleeting museum exhibit, in glances here and there. Or perhaps it’s like a coffee table book where you skim the pages and occasionally something interesting jumps out at you for a moment in-between the soporific.

But damn the delirious overpraise this little ditty is stirring. Some viewers might find it so miraculous that a film would give textured life to yesteryear Mexico and grant us closeness to a common servant who loves the family she works for, just like many around the world still do today. But as real as she is, Cleo is not a compelling character. There is nothing intellectually enthralling to gain from her. It’s of course valid to make a film about someone as humble and transparent as her, no doubt, but there’s a limit to how connected you could possibly feel about her at the end of the day. “Roma” raised some awareness for me in what the life of Mexico proletariat looks like, but still it kept me at arm’s length. It should be said I’m glad that I saw it, but it’s silly to me to think that anyone thinks there is anything great going on here.

135 Minutes. Rated R. Spanish in English subtitles.


Film Cousins: “Diary of a Chambermaid” (1964, Spain); “Tristana” (1970, Spain); “Amarcord” (1975, Italy); “Y Tu Mama Tambien” (2001, Mexico).




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Sean Chavel

About The Author / Sean Chavel

Sean Chavel is a Hollywood based author and movie reviewer. He is the Executive Director of, a new website that has adapted the movie review site genre by introducing moodbased and movie experience based reviews.


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