Roma (2018 film)
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Alfonso Cuarón|
|Written by||Alfonso Cuarón|
|Box office||$5.1 million|
Roma is a 2018 epic drama film written and directed by Alfonso Cuarón, who also produced, shot, and co-edited it. Set in 1970 and 1971, Roma follows the life of a live-in housekeeper of a middle-class family, as a semi-autobiographical take on Cuarón's upbringing in the Colonia Roma neighborhood of Mexico City. The film stars Yalitza Aparicio and Marina de Tavira.
The film 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 in the United States on 21 November 2018, before streaming on Netflix in the US and other territories starting on 14 December 2018. The film received universal acclaim, with particular praise given to Cuarón's screenplay, direction and cinematography, as well as Aparicio's and de Tavira's performances.
Roma received a number of accolades, with ten nominations at the 91st Academy Awards, among them Best Picture, Best Original Screenplay, Best Actress (Aparicio) and Best Supporting Actress (de Tavira). It became the first Mexican entry to win Best Foreign Language Film, and also won for Best Cinematography and Best Director, becoming the first foreign language film to win in the last category, as well as marking the first time a director won Best Cinematography for his or her own film. It was tied with The Favourite as the most-nominated film of the show, and with Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000) for the most Academy Award nominations ever received by a non-English language film. It also won Best Director and Best Foreign Language Film at the 76th Golden Globe Awards, Best Picture and Best Director at the 24th Critics' Choice Awards, and Best Film, Best Film Not in the English Language, Best Direction and Best Cinematography at the 72nd British Academy Film Awards.
Cleodegaria "Cleo" Gutiérrez is an indigenous live-in maid in an affluent household in the Colonia Roma neighborhood of Mexico City. The family's matriarch, Sofía, her husband, Antonio, her mother Teresa, their four young children, and another maid, Adela, also live in the house. Antonio, a doctor, leaves for a conference in Quebec. It becomes clear that Sofía and Antonio's marriage is strained. After returning briefly, Antonio leaves again, saying he is going to Quebec for a few weeks.
Cleo and Adela, who speak Mixtec when they are together, go out to the cinema with their boyfriends, Fermín and Ramón. However, Cleo and Fermín decide to go for a walk instead. An undisclosed amount of time later, the two of them rent a hotel room and they sleep together. Some weeks later at the cinema, Cleo tells Fermín that she thinks she is pregnant, at which point he excuses himself to use the restroom but never returns. Cleo reveals the same concern to Sofía, who takes her to get checked at the hospital where they confirm her pregnancy.
Sofía takes Cleo 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 and everyone works together to extinguish it.
Back in the city, Cleo accompanies the children and their grandmother to a cinema to watch Marooned. They see Antonio rush out with a young woman, a fact Sofía tries to conceal from the children, but which her second son later learns of by eavesdropping. She asks him to not tell his siblings. Through Adela's boyfriend, Cleo finds Fermín at an outdoor martial-arts class. During the class, of all those watching, only Cleo is able to balance with eyes closed in imitation of a blindfolded instructor who is performing a pose much like a vriksasana. Her boyfriend refuses to acknowledge that the baby is his, and threatens to beat her and their child if they try to find him again.
With the baby almost due, Teresa takes Cleo shopping for a crib. On the way, they see students gathering to protest in the streets; these turn deadly because of 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 shoot him dead. Another gunman, who points a gun at Cleo, turns out to be Fermín; he glares at her momentarily before running off, which causes Cleo's water to break.
Cleo, Teresa, and their driver try to get to the hospital but are stuck in traffic amid the violent protests. Antonio comes by to reassure Cleo, who is now in the delivery room, but makes an excuse to avoid staying. Hearing no heartbeat in Cleo's womb, the doctors take her into surgery, where they deliver a stillborn girl. Multiple attempts to resuscitate the baby fail.
After a drunken attempt to park the car in the family's narrow garage, Sofía buys a narrower car, but plans a final trip in the old car for a family holiday to the beaches at Tuxpan. She takes Cleo as well, to help her cope with her loss. Sofía tells the children that she and their father are separated, and that the holiday was so their father can collect his belongings from their home. At the beach, the two middle children are almost carried off by a strong current. Cleo wades in to save them, even though she doesn't know how to swim. As Sofía and the children affirm their love for Cleo for such selfless devotion, she breaks down and reveals that she had not wanted her baby to be born. They return home to Roma to find the house reorganized. Cleo prepares a load for washing, telling Adela they have much to talk about.
- Yalitza Aparicio as Cleodegaria "Cleo" Gutiérrez, one of the family's maids
- Marina de Tavira as Sofía, the mother of the family
- Fernando Grediaga as Antonio, Sofía'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, Sofía's mother
- José Manuel Guerrero Mendoza as Ramón, Adela's lover
- Latin Lover as Professor Zovek
- Allen Borrelli as the American Military Trainer
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.
Before being cast, Aparicio, who had recently completed graduate training in pre-school education, had no acting experience or formal training in acting. She has joked that the only "acting" she has ever done was lying to her parents and teachers.
Robbery on set
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.
The film had its world premiere at the 75th Venice International Film Festival on 30 August 2018, and made its North American debut the next day at the Telluride Film Festival. The film also played at the Toronto International Film Festival. 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 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. Released digitally on 14 December, the film was watched by 3.2 million households between January and February 2019, with a peak of 418,000 viewers on 23 February, the day before the Academy Awards.
After Roma was nominated for Best Picture at the 91st Academy Awards, AMC Theatres and Regal Cinemas both issued statements saying that Roma would not be part of the line-up at either chain's annual Best Picture showcase. AMC said in their statement that this was due to them never receiving a license from Netflix to screen Roma in their theaters. Both theaters chains have refused to screen films from Netflix due to policies that stipulate a minimum 90 days between theatrical exhibition and home viewing.[jargon]
The eligibility of the film for the Academy Awards was a matter of controversy in the US film industry, since despite the film's limited theatrical release, many believed it to have been made for home viewing. In March 2019, Steven Spielberg expressed disapproval of streaming films being eligible for Academy Awards, and the timing of his comments led commentators to believe they were a response to Roma, although he did not mention the film by name.
The film received the biggest promotional campaign in Netflix's history, with anywhere from $25 million to $50 million in advertisements (with Netflix insisting on the former figure and its rivals on the latter). One unique tactic included sending out thousands of six-pound, Roma coffee table books (worth $175) to awards voters, which led a consultant to say "the shipping charges cost more than some movies' advertising budgets".
While Netflix has not publicly disclosed box-office figures for Roma, sources deduced that the film made $90,000–120,000 from three theaters 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 among 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 145 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. By its ninth week of release, the film had made an estimated $2.8 million. In the weekend following the announcement of its 10 Oscar nominations, Roma grossed another $175,000 from around 80 theaters, pushing it past $3 million, the first foreign language film to do so domestically since Ida in 2013.
On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, Roma holds an approval rating of 96% based on 375 reviews, with an average rating of 8.96/10. 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, the film has a weighted average score of 96 out of 100, based on 50 critics, indicating "universal acclaim". It is the 26th highest-rated film of all-time on the site, and the best-reviewed of 2018.
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".
Slavoj Žižek argued that people were appreciating the film for the wrong reasons, claiming that people were appreciating Cleo's grace too much, without seeing the way that Cleo needs to break free from the moral constraints placed upon her.
According to a study of 65 indigeneity-oriented fictional features produced in Latin America in the 21st century, the film can be considered as a catalyst for change in the blueprint for representations of indigenous characters in cinema. Roma depicts Cleo, the main indigenous character, to a level of detail that there is no room for stereotypical portrayals. Gonzalez Rodriguez asserts that the film is a unique example of syntonic indigeneity as it challenges traditional representations of the indigenous Other as an exotic figure (histrionic indigeneity).
Roma won the Golden Lion for Best Film at the Venice International Film Festival. At the Toronto International Film Festival, it was also named second runner-up for the People's Choice Award.
The film received 10 nominations for the 91st Academy Awards, including Best Picture—thereby tying with The Favourite as the most-nominated film. It is also the first film distributed primarily by a streaming service that has been nominated for Best Picture. It is also tied with Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000) for the most Oscar nominations ever received by a film not in the English language. It ultimately won three Academy Awards, including Best Foreign Language Film, becoming the first Mexican film to win this honor.
Roma received American Film Institute's 2018 AFI Special Award, as it was not eligible for AFI Movies of the Year due to its foreign-language status. It was chosen by Time magazine and the New York Film Critics Circle as the best film of 2018, and by the National Board of Review as one of the top ten best films of 2018. Furthermore, it was nominated for the Cinema for Peace Most Valuable Film of the Year 2019.
On November 15, 2019, it was confirmed that Roma would be receiving a DVD and Blu-ray release from The Criterion Collection, marking the first time a Netflix original film was added to the library, and one of the rare times that Netflix had permitted one of their films for physical media release. Netflix described the announcement as "such an honor". To coincide with the Criterion Collection release, in February 2020 Netflix released a behind-the-scenes documentary named Road to Roma.
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