In happier times, my parents loved movies. Film arts lit up my heart and mind by the time I was in the 2nd grade. For a kid who adored films, my parents were great parents to have because they had such a keen interest in films domestic and foreign. We went to the drive-in movies a lot. ROMA is the kind of special film Mom and Dad would go to see at a Hollywood theater -- like a film by Fellini, De Sica, David Lean or Martin Ritt.
ROMA challenges the way we watch films nowadays. It's not an action/fantasy film driven by special effects. It's in black and white. It's subtitled. You must pay attention to the scenes and the characters and the subtlety of the director. To live tweet as you watch this would assure that you'd miss important visual information. As for Cleo, she is one of those people who can be in your life yet be invisible. She cleans, she cooks, she carries luggage, she cares for the kids, she's constantly going up and down long staircases to do daily chores for the married couple, the children and a grandparent. She has been with this family for quite some time. The kids love her. She's devoted to them. Yet, in a critical moment, one of the adults doesn't know Cleo's full name, her age or when she was born.
The movie opens with a visual of a diamond-shaped pattern on tile. Water washes over it. It could be water splashed up from a pool at a tropical resort. It's not. It's water from the bucket as Cleo cleans a pathway on the family's property. Notice the water motif in Cleo's story. The water in her bucket. Water puts out a fire. Water breaks. The ocean scene.
ROMA looks like it was shot in 1970. The production design is impeccable. It reminded me of areas in the L.A. of my youth, like downtown L.A. with its large, vibrant Mexican population and areas where I attended Catholic school. I had many Mexican-American classmates and teachers and fellow altar boys as I grew up in L.A. I could see their faces in Cleo's. ROMA is a beautiful and memorable piece of work. I think it will be an Oscar nominee for Best Picture.
Cuarón's other films are Gravity, Children of Men and Y Tu Mamá También. Alfonso Cuarón's childhood nanny inspired the Cleo character in ROMA. His nanny can be seen as the nanny to Diego Luna's character in Y Tu Mamá También. His wonderful new film is dedicated to her.