I finally saw the 2019 Oscar nominated film Roma, and was enormously moved by it. The film is slow moving; I can understand the criticism that “nothing happens.” Actually, life happens, but much of life is not dramatic or fast paced. Life is kids coming home from school, a trip to the movies, getting dinner on the table, cleaning up after the dog, having a minor accident on the crowded streets of Mexico City — interspersed with an unwelcome pregnancy, a husband leaving home, and other momentous things.
The film is set in 1970-71 Mexico City, in the home of an upper middle class family with servants, and is seen through the eyes of an indigenous young woman, Cleo, who cleans and cares for the children. Her story is Gloria’s story, for those of you who have followed the blog and know the history of my Panama family. In Roma, the children come rushing in from school and drop their things on the floor for Cleo to pick up. Gloria entered service for a wealthy Panama City family at the age of 16. She remembers the kids doing just the same thing, and when she asked them to hang their coats up instead of dropping them on the floor even the youngest said with disdain, “It’s your job. You pick it up.”
The film depicts several things: the fact that when the upper class step out of their gated homes they are in the midst of the chaos and confusion of crowded city streets just like everyone else. The poor, who are the servant class, have a life of their own which takes place beneath the more gilded lives of their employers, and of which the employers are largely oblivious and totally indifferent. The servants spend more time with, and are deeply caring, of the children in their charge, yet are uniformly treated with disdain — except when the children are sick or injured and run to the servant for comfort. Poor women have a much harder life than poor men, because poor women can get pregnant. Poor men can walk away.
The cinematography in the film is gorgeous, especially the scene where pregnant Cleo confronts Fermin, the father of her baby, on the athletic training field.
The film gots lots of Oscar nominations; perhaps it should have had more wins. In any case, the film tells a story of people whose voices are rarely heard. If you are interested in a subtle and nuanced depiction of social class difference, this is your film. On Netflix.
Two thumbs up.