“This is heavy” was the first thing I said during one of the pivotal scenes in Roma. The movie recently got 10 nominations in this year’s Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Actress.
Roma is an autobiographical film about Alfonso’s childhood maid who he still has close contact with. The director told Varietythat he wanted to recreate her story, not as something he remembered as a child, but what really happened and to portray a story that highlighted the painful experiences and injustices she personally went through.
Teacher-turned-actress Yalitza Aparicio plays Cleo, a house maid in Colonia Roma, Mexico City. She works for a middle-class family and sees their struggles, especially of the matriarch Sofia (Marina de Tavira) as she goes through a failing marriage.
Throughout the film, you’ll see Cleo’s selflessness as she takes care of everyone in the home. Her face is a mask to hide whatever problems she’s experiencing in her personal life. This is also emphasized by the fact she rarely shows any emotion. She keeps a calm demeanor when she’s chasing after kids, and even after her boyfriend disappeared on her when she found out she was pregnant.
It didn’t show that Cleo was an abused maid—the family cares for her deeply like she’s one of them. But the heaviness comes when despite hearing about troubles in her hometown of Oaxaca, her baby daddy calling her “poor,” and other horrible things happening to her throughout the movie, she still put her dutifulness to her employer first. So it’s especially heartbreaking when you see Cleo’s rare breakdowns in the film.
This is also what Alfonso wanted to show in Roma. That his maid is an individual, not just someone who talk about “adventures” to him as a kid. It hits especially close to home for Filipinos who are familiar with having a kasambahay help us with chores and sometimes forgetting that they’re not machines.
Roma is a heartwarming story that hits viewers with sudden emotions through almost-quiet sceneries. It feels and looks more authentic with the black-and-white color grading. It has a fighting chance to win an Oscar and so much more.
Art by Marian Hukom
Photos by Carlos Somonte via Netflix
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