Roma (2018 film)
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Alfonso Cuarón|
|Written by||Alfonso Cuarón|
|Box office||$2.3 million|
Roma is a 2018 drama film written and directed by Alfonso Cuarón, who also produced, co-edited and shot the film. A co-production of Mexico and the United States, it stars Yalitza Aparicio and Marina de Tavira. Set in 1970 and 1971, the film is a semi-autobiographical take on Cuarón's upbringing in Mexico City, and follows the life of a live-in housekeeper to a middle-class family. The title refers to Colonia Roma, a neighborhood in the city.
Roma had its world premiere at the 75th Venice International Film Festival on 30 August 2018, where it won the Golden Lion. It began a limited theatrical run on 21 November 2018, and began streaming on Netflix on 14 December 2018. The film received universal acclaim for Cuarón's screenplay, direction and cinematography, as well as Aparicio and de Tavira’s performances.
Roma received several accolades, including two Golden Globes for Best Director and Best Foreign Language Film at the 76th Golden Globe Awards, and four Critics' Choice Awards, including Best Director and Best Picture at the 24th Critics' Choice Awards. It received seven nominations at the 72nd British Academy Film Awards, including Best Film, Best Director, and Best Film Not in the English Language. It was also selected as the Mexican entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 91st Academy Awards, making the December shortlist.
In 1970, Cleo is a maid in the Colonia Roma neighborhood of Mexico City working in the household of Sofia, whose occupants also consist of Sofia's husband Antonio, their four young children, Sofia's mother Teresa, and another maid, Adela. Antonio, a doctor, leaves for a conference in Quebec, Canada. Among scenes of Cleo's life with the family – her cleaning, cooking, taking the kids to and from school, serving them meals, putting the kids to bed and waking them up – it becomes clear that Sofia and Antonio's marriage is strained. After a brief return, Antonio leaves again, saying he is going to Quebec for a few weeks.
In their time off, Cleo and Adela go out with their boyfriends, Fermín and Ramón, to the theater. At the entrance, Cleo and Fermín decide to rent a room instead of seeing the movie. Fermín shows off his martial arts skill using the shower curtain rod as a pole. At another date, both couples meet in a movie theater, where Cleo tells Fermín that she thinks she is pregnant. As the movie (La Grande Vadrouille) is about to end, Fermín says he is going to the bathroom and will be back, but then does not return and is nowhere to be found when Cleo goes outside. Cleo reveals the same concern to Sofia, who takes her to get checked at the hospital where Antonio works. The doctor there confirms her pregnancy.
Sofia takes Cleo, Adela, and her children to a family friend's hacienda for New Year's. Both the landowners and the workers mention recent tensions over land in the area. During the celebrations, a fire erupts in the forest. Everyone helps put out the fire as a man counts down the remaining seconds of 1970 before singing in the foreground.
Back in the city, Cleo accompanies the children and their grandmother to a movie theater (to watch Marooned). As they are entering, Antonio is seen rushing out with a young woman. Sofia tries to hide Antonio's departure from the children, but her second son learns of it by eavesdropping in on a phone conversation. She asks him to not tell his other siblings who believe their father is still away on business in Canada.
Through Adela's boyfriend, Cleo finds Fermín at an outdoor martial arts training class, but he refuses to acknowledge that the baby is his and threatens to beat her and their child if they ever come to look for him again.
Cleo is now nearing her due date. Teresa takes her shopping for a crib. On their way to the store, they observe students gathering to protest in the streets. As they are browsing upstairs in the furniture store, the protests below turn murderous between police clubbings, while bands of roving youths, implied to be the paramilitary group Los Halcones (The Hawks), randomly shoot at protesters. When a wounded man and a woman run into the store trying to hide, several youths find the man and kill him with a gunshot as the shop patrons take cover. Another gunman pointing a gun at Cleo turns out to be Fermín, who glares momentarily before running off with the other youths. Just then, Cleo's water breaks.
Cleo, Teresa, and their driver try to get to the hospital quickly but are impeded by violence in the streets and car traffic. Cleo is taken into the delivery room. Antonio comes by to reassure her, but makes an excuse to avoid staying with her. The doctors hear no heartbeat in Cleo's womb and take her into surgery, where they deliver a stillborn baby girl. Multiple attempts to resuscitate the infant fail. The doctors give the body to Cleo for a few moments before taking it away.
After a drunken attempt to park the family Ford Galaxie in the narrow garage area, Sofia buys a narrower car, but plans a final trip in the Galaxie for a family holiday to the beaches at Tuxpan, taking Cleo to help her cope with her loss. Sofia tells the children over dinner that she and their father are separated and that the trip was made so their father can collect his belongings from their home. At the beach, the two middle children are almost carried off by the strong current until Cleo wades into the ocean to save them from drowning even though she herself does not know how to swim. As Sofia and the children affirm their love for Cleo for such selfless devotion, she breaks down from intense guilt, revealing that she had not wanted her baby. They return to their house, with the bookshelves gone and various bedrooms reassigned. Cleo prepares a load of washing, telling Adela she has much to tell her, as a plane flies overhead.
- 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
On 8 September 2016, it was announced that Alfonso Cuarón would write and direct a project focusing on a Mexican family living in Mexico City in the 1970s. Production was set to begin in fall 2016  by his own production company Esperanto Filmoj and Participant Media. The film was produced by Cuarón, Gabriela Rodríguez, and Nicolás Celis. Roma was shot in sequence, which Yalitza Aparicio, who plays Cleo, said helped her. She was most terrified by the scene on the beach, as she—like her character—could not swim.
On 1 November 2016, the crew of Roma was the target of a robbery. According to the studio, "two women were hit, five crew members were hospitalized, and cellphones, wallets, and jewelry were stolen" during the attack. The crew reportedly arrived to set up filming for the day when a group of city workers approached the crew and tried to shut down filming. The crew stated they had permission to film, but the workers persisted and a brawl broke out between the groups.
In April 2018, it was announced Netflix had acquired distribution rights to the film. The film's teaser trailer, which runs for one minute and shows water flowing repeatedly over tiles with washing sounds in the background, was released on 25 July 2018 by Cuarón through his Twitter account.
The film had its world premiere at the 75th Venice International Film Festival on 30 August 2018. It made its North American debut the next day at the Telluride Film Festival. The film also played at the Toronto International Film Festival, beginning on 10 September, and the Orcas Island Film Festival, on 8 October 2018. It was screened at the San Sebastián International Film Festival on 27 September 2018, the New York Film Festival on 5 October 2018, and the 29th New Orleans Film Festival as the Centerpiece Film on 22 October 2018. The film was also shown as part of the Orange County Film Fiesta, at the AMC 30 in Orange, California on 27 October, as well as at one of AFI Fest's Special Screenings at the Egyptian Theatre on 10 November.
The film was released at independent theatres in Mexico on 21 November. However the Cinépolis and Cinemex chains refused as they demanded a longer exclusivity window than what Netflix offered.
While Netflix has not publicly disclosed box office figures for Roma, insider sources deduced the film made $90,000–120,000 in its opening weekend, 23–25 November, and a total of $200,000 over the five-day Thanksgiving frame, including selling out theaters in Los Angeles and New York City. Had the results been officially reported, its approximate venue average of $66,600 would have ranked amongst the best ever for a foreign-language film. In its second weekend of theatrical release, the film expanded to 17 theaters. IndieWire estimated the film grossed $110,000 from four of them, including selling out in San Francisco, and that the film would "easily be the best grossing subtitled film" of 2018. In its third weekend, the film made another estimated $500,000 from 100 theaters, for a running total of $900,000. Despite being released on Netflix on Friday, 14 December, the film expanded to 147 theaters and grossed an estimated $362,000, for a four-week total of $1.4 million. It made another $300,000 the following week and $150,000 the week after that.
On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, Roma holds an approval rating of 96% based on 313 reviews, with an average rating of 9/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "Roma finds writer-director Alfonso Cuarón in complete, enthralling command of his visual craft – and telling the most powerfully personal story of his career." On Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating to reviews, the film has a weighted average score of 96 out of 100, based on 50 critics, indicating "universal acclaim."
The film was widely acclaimed by critics since its release. Writing for The Guardian, Peter Bradshaw said "Roma is thrilling, engrossing, moving – and just entirely amazing, an adjectival pileup of wonder. He has reached back into his own childhood to create an intensely personal story." Likewise, Manohla Dargis of The New York Times called the film "an expansive, emotional portrait of life buffeted by violent forces, and a masterpiece" and praised Cuarón's use of "intimacy and monumentality to express the depths of ordinary life."
Conversely, Slovenian philosopher and film critic Slavoj Žižek felt that the film "is celebrated for all the wrong reasons." Writing for The Spectator, he said, "The film’s texture is full of subtle signs which indicate that the image of Cleo’s goodness is itself a trap, the object of implicit critique which denounces her dedication as the result of her ideological blindness."
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