Roma ★★★★★

Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither were the familial bonds between hired house labor Cléo and a comfortable middleclass family in Roma. Instead, they were earned through what could only be years of unwavering serventry, to which Cuarón casts his lense for the audience to watch as the lines between hired help and family become starkly clear.

Cléo runs the house.. Actually Cléo tag teams the responsibilities with fellow maid, Adela. Both women tend to the families beckoning call, but it’s Cléo who holds the emotional heart for the family and thus becomes the center of the film. We witness her perform all of her duties: Cleaning the walkway, scrubbing the dishes, doing the linens, preparing all meals and snacks, taking the children out for entertainment, even tucking them in with goodnight prayers or waking them up with good morning kisses. She’s the matriarch to a family who doesn’t appreciate her.

They love her. We hear it throughout the film. But that realization isn’t there that Cléo exists beyond attending to their needs. Early on, Cléo sits down as the family watch TV. One of the little boys wraps his arm around her as she sits down for a brief moment, that is until Sofia, the true matriarch of the family, asks Cléo to prepare some tea. As the camera pans around a tidy, spotless home, we overhead the husband say he’s frustrated there’s dog poop everywhere. A point that in the face of all that Cléo does, there’s still small parts they can pick apart. There’s more instances but I need to get on with the review before I think about this too much and tear up again.

It’s only when Cleo finds out she may be pregnant that the tide slowly shifts (that’s a pun that’s too soon to make, it you catch my drift!!!). Sofia arranges to have Cléo brought to the hospital. Teresa, Sofia’s mother, goes crib shopping with Cléo and accompanies her to the hospital after her water breaks. And of course, there’s the revelatory ending where everything comes in full scope for the family. 

What Cuarón develops is effectively one of the most beautiful stories I’ve ever seen, with such a lingering intimacy to it, I’ll be thinking of this well beyond the weekend.

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