Netflix’s Roma is a heartrending and picturesque film that will remain in our memories for ever so long.
The movie opens with a close-up shot of the floor as the background sound indicates that floor-cleaning is being done. To confirm that, dirty water splashes onto the floor. There is apparently an opening on the ceiling which can be seen through the reflection on the wet floor. It brings the outer sky in view. A plane flies above in the sky. Slowly camera changes its direction from the floor and moves upwards to show Cleo (Yalitza Aparicio) busily cleaning the floor. By this time, I was already engrossed in the movie and enthralled by the scrupulous attention to detail in the camera work. Cleo is the central character who works as a maid for Sofia (Marina de Tavira). Alfonso Cuarón’s Roma is a film that will linger long upon the retina of memory as it takes us through the lives of Cleo and Sofia and beautifully exhibits the pain they go through.
Cleo and Sofia express their anguish in different circumstances and for different reasons but their loss has a congruence. Sofia, whose husband has left her for another woman, tells Cleo that women are always alone no matter what people say. Cleo, whose boyfriend has betrayed her after impregnating her, delivers a stillborn baby. Later, Cleo weeps and reveals that she never wanted that baby to be born. We understand where’s that coming from and are moved by their loss.
Roma is a perfect example of majestic camera work. It is like a tutorial to the filmmakers. In many instances, the camera remains stationary at a point and swivels around as the characters do their job. It almost feels like you are standing right there keenly observing each of the characters. Cleo just goes about doing her household chores while the camera is fixed at a point and rotates around to follow her (It feels placid, hushed and lonely). While Sofia, her husband (Fernando Grediaga) and the kids are watching a programme on television, we see everyone of them sitting on a sofa with a smile on their face (camera slowly rotates from left to right) as Cleo is moving behind them showing a keen interest herself (You feel the attachment towards her while she sits down beside their sofa to watch the programme and the next moment Sofia asks her to bring tea). A beautiful bed-time song can be heard as we see a lot of toys kept in a room (again, the magnificent camera work is on display as it moves leisurely from left to right) and the visuals reveal Cleo singing for Sofia’s daughter. A 360-degree view from the centre of the house can be experienced when Cleo goes about switching off all the lights in the house (Thanks to Alfonso for presenting merely a switching-off-lights scene so remarkably!). To top it all off, it is a black and white film that made it visually even more appealing.
The brilliant piece of camera work further accentuated the feel of specific scenes. Cleo joins Sofia’s son and lies on a concrete slab at the terrace, with hands spread and eyes closed, playing what the boy calls as being “dead”. She responds by saying that she likes being dead. There was a feeling of tranquillity in the whole scene as it leaves us in a train of thoughts. The camera moves up, slowly rotates towards the right and we get the view of other terraces with clothes hung out to dry (There is nothing great about this view but it comes after a thoughtful scene that makes it more serene-looking). In another scene, Cleo reveals to her boyfriend that she is pregnant inside a cinema hall and he goes away saying that he will be back. But the movie ends and he is nowhere to be seen. While the movie ends on a happier note, we see her slightly worried and turning back to see if he is coming back. All the while camera is placed behind her with the full view of cinema hall and the screen to illuminate the contrasting emotions. As she comes outside the cinema hall, we do not see her crying or showing some strong emotions, instead we feel her forlorn state as she is engulfed by the noise of roadside sellers.
We get so attached to Cleo’s character that we rejoice when she is in a jollier mood and feel sad for her sufferings. She correlates, in a scene, a relaxing environment of the countryside with her own village and it soothes us. When Sofia scolds her to clean the dog shit on the house corridor, it hurts us. At road traffic, two children, wearing a frightened face, are glued to their car window to see Cleo crying in pain who is being taken to hospital as we feel her affliction. Cleo is about to have a glass of alcohol in a party but a couple dancing nearby hit her accidentally as she drops her glass (Her innocent face is enough to make you feel for her). Even Sofia’s children are very attached to her (We are emotionally drawn towards her when she informs about her being pregnant to Sofia, cries and Sofia’s son suddenly appears and hugs her. In another scene, Sofia’s children hug her and persuade her to come out with them for an outing).
As the movie comes to a close, we see that Cleo is back to doing her household chores at Sofia’s place. She is walking up the stairs to the terrace and the sky comes into view. A plane passes by in the sky which reminds us of the opening scene. It leaves us with a plethora of thoughts. One can think that it’s the end of all her sorrows and a return to normalcy. Or, one may think, whatever happens, life goes on. Netflix’s Roma is a heartrending and picturesque film that will remain in our memories for ever so long.