No, this is not the best film of the year, though it is a very moving story about a family in Mexico City trying to make sense out of a confusing world.
It certainly appears that director Alfonso Cuarón’s Roma is the most highly praised movie of 2018. While it appears to be a shoo-in for inclusion in this year’s foreign language Oscar category, there are some that are advocating that it also be nominated as one of the best pictures of the year.
Well, while I certainly was moved by the theme of this emotional film, let me simply advocate that the picture be confined to the best foreign language category. Though it tells an engaging story of Mr. Cuarón’s childhood in Mexico City in 1971, its running time of 2 hours 15 minutes leaves you thinking, “Ok, I like this movie, but let’s end it before you ruin the whole thing.”
The story centers on an upper middle-class family where the father of three young children is a doctor and the mother has a chemistry degree. They live in complete comfort, employing two servants to take care of everything from the family dog to maintaining the household.
Marina De Tavira does a wonderful job playing Sofia, a caring mother who tries to adjust after her husband runs off with his mistress. Her three children, Paco (Carlos Peralta), Pepe (Marco Graft) and Sofi (Daniela Demesa) are a bundle of energy, and the film reflects a childhood that in many ways will remind most of us of our youth.
However, the movie belongs to the two maids, Cleo and Adela. They come from poverty, and they are dedicated to fulfilling every demand of their employers. In particular, Yalitza Aparicio dominates the film in her role as Cleo, a young woman who finds herself dealing with an unexpected pregnancy even when Fermin (Jorge Antonio Guerrero), her would be boyfriend, not only rejects her but threatens to kill her if she ever claims him to be the child’s father.
The entire film deals with these and other family issues, which includes constantly cleaning up their dog’s feces from the garage floor. On top of that, riots are taking place in the streets of Mexico City where students protest even though many are shot by the local police.
Mr. Cuarón is a fabulous director as reflected by his prior works ranging from Y Tu Mamá También (2002), Children of Men (2006), Pan’s Labyrinth (2006) and Gravity (2013). With Roma, he brings to life a small story about a family that is struggling to embrace life while providing a ladder for their children to find success as they move into adulthood. It is an important film about unimportant people and you can see how Mr. Cuarón emerged into one of the most talented directors working in Hollywood today.
Let me close with an observation of the family home in this movie. While the inside of the home is lavish, it seems quite average when you look at it from the street. In that sense, it reminded me of the two weeks that Monica and I spent in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia this time last year. Our exchange student’s home looked exactly like the one seen in this movie, and you also drove through a narrow gate to park in a driveway where their dog was also kept. However, the home itself was four stories of eye-catching splendor, and the family employed 5 maids.
As I watched our former exchange student make a name internationally as a banker, I can only hope that he finds the same talent and success as Mr. Cuarón.