ROMA and Why I Loved It

NOTE: Spoilers ahead if you have not seen the movie Roma.

I saw an absolutely stunning movie recently, and it seems that it is going to win all the major awards this awards season. Usually, when they announce these things, people will leave comments on social media that are about this very movie being slow or boring, or that they didn’t get it at all. Many think it is unworthy of all the accolades it is getting, and I completely disagree. It is not only the darling of awards this year, it is also one of the most highly critically praised movies of the year. Neither of the last two facts influence my opinion and actually, those facts never have – my taste is unique and quirky and I often like things that are very different. Isn’t it so true that we all watch things with a different set of eyes, based on our own life experiences? And that my friends, is why this movie, to my eyes, is very special.

Before I watched the movie, I read a bit about it being autobiographical, that the director, writer, (and eventual cinematographer) was the acclaimed Alfonso Cuaron, a past winner of many accolades. That made me even more interested to see it.

I think the fact that it is a foreign film, in subtitles, distracted many people from really watching the movie with an open eye and heart. Sometimes that is difficult to do with subtitles. I absolutely adored The Artist, several years ago– a long shot at awards due to being silent with subtitles and all foreign actors, and yet it won Best Picture and that made me happy. Although I don’t take stock of who wins as a favorite, it is nice to see an offbeat choice – an underdog- win on occasion.

I personally related to this beautiful movie ROMA, and loved it. I think it is worth another watch – available on NETFLIX if you get that, even if it was not your cup of tea.

People have asked me, “What is the reason you loved this boring movie?” The reasons are numerous.

First, the hero of the movie, Cleo, is someone without a real voice, who has to go through life in service to others based on an outdated class system. She had no opportunity for any other life, had no education, had no money to get an education, and so she immersed herself in her job. You can see how she relishes being able to be part of, what must be to her, a grand home, even if she is confined to 16 hour workdays and a tiny room above the roof.

It is an amazing thing to see a portrait of a person like this- one that we rarely get to see portrayed as the protagonist. There are movies of victims, and usually the “help” is a shadowy, helpful figure, not the main character. Of course the movie, The Help a few years ago broke that mold. The underclass finally had a voice in that movie, and I loved that movie too. As you can see, I appreciate the underdog having a voice, as you will read about in this piece.

Yet, this household maid and nanny to an upper class white family in Mexico in the sixties was the loving glue that held together a family that was falling apart. In that this is a true story, I think it probably took many years for the author to acknowledge this. He first had to grow up and be able to process the breakdown of his family.

I related to being a member of an underclass, yet I was privileged in being capable enough, and able, to work my way through college and graduate school. It was tough, but I was determined to better my own circumstances. My own underclass situation COMPLETELY PALES in comparison to many, but in my little world, I had much, much less than all the others. I worked from the time I was 10 years old, straight through, mostly to buy clothes and incidentals, and then to support myself through college and graduate school. And maybe because I lived among so many “haves,” that caused me to be motivated and aspire to a better quality of life. I root for the underdog because I WAS the underdog.

I also related to the mother in this film being abandoned as her husband found a new woman, who then left her and his children in the dust as if they did not matter at all. If you know my history, and my own divorce, then it makes sense how my heart broke for this woman. She is in such pain and turmoil, yet trying to keep things as normal as possible for her children, and that once was me.

The side plot in the movie of the civil unrest that was so close by to the little walled upper middle-class Roma neighborhood of large town homes, also was interesting to me. Outside their little enclave of protection, it was a very dangerous world for these family members and also for the maid/nanny who had to venture out in times of military unrest and random violence.

When the maid/nanny falls in love, and perhaps sees a way out of a life of servitude by getting accidentally pregnant, she is cruelly rejected by her lover, yet embraced and protected by the family she works for – making it obvious that they love her as much as she loves them. The scene where she was taken shopping for a crib for her baby was extremely touching. She, the caretaker, was being cared for in this example.

This is a movie that is brutally honest that men can be cads. Many reviewers have written about the feminist nature of this film. Women are the strong ones in life. They hold the fabric of family together, or at least that was historically true. Every single time I read about or see a movie where a divorce causes the father to leave behind children as if they never existed, and this occurred regularly through the 1960s and perhaps even into the 1970’s, I am shocked that this was the norm. I just read Sally Field’s autobiography, (highly recommended) and her stepfather who married her mother left his previous family without seemingly another word, and the same thing happened to her first husband in his childhood.

These are the themes in the movie that appealed to me, that moved me, that touched me, and caused me to really soak this up and appreciate every minute. So many emotions ran through me while watching, and that is why to me it is such a great movie. I even felt sorry for the confined dog, (also expected to live a life of servitude as a guard dog and nothing else) who was never walked and had to go to the bathroom in a courtyard and driveway. I was a bit angry at the family for treating him more neglectfully than they treated their other servants, who got hugs and love and appreciation.

I had to write down these thoughts about the movie – there are many more toughts so private that I would not share publicly, but let’s just say, there was so much meaning in the movie that I found so personal. So of course, I absolutely loved it. I hope it breaks the mold and is the first foreign film to win the Oscar. I will be rooting hard for it. This is not to say there are lot of other good movies this year, especially A Star is Born, but that story has been told four times now. ROMA is unique, a one-of-a-kind look back on a time for the author and director, that must have been so very painful. I FELT the pain.

When I write my blogs, as you all know, I am sharing my own opinion on things, and many times readers agree or disagree. I am open to dissenting opinions, as always, so let me hear from you! And maybe, just maybe, this will convince another person to give this one another viewing with a more open heart and mind.

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