Mexico City Blues

Roma (Alfonso Cuarón, 2018)

I really wanted to like this more than I did — for such a beautiful film where nothing happens, it cranks up tensions of nasty things happening, but the characters seem remarkably unscathed.

I was worried about the dog.

It seemed to be producing an awful lot of shit given the maids seemed to be constantly scooping it up.

Indeed, the opening sequence is of a driveway being flushed clean and mopped, the occasion aeroplane reflected in the puddle. And then there are a series of long, panning, shots, following characters, especially the maid Cleo (Yalitza Aparicio) around a Mexico City house. Cuarón has form for this, of course, especially in Children of Men and Gravity, in the latter offering a sense of trappedness. It’s the wonder of the digital age that you can’t see the joins, unlike poor old Alfred Hitchcock who had to focus in on a dark surface to stitch bits of Rope together. There’s a sequence of a street protest and police violence, which I suspect was largely CGI.

Gravity is invoked as the characters go to see Marooned at the cinema — as a biographical account of Cuarón’s family’s maid it could be that this is a sourcebook for his motifs. The maid seems as close to the children as their mother Sofía (Marina de Tavira) and certainly closer than their father Antonio (Fernando Grediaga). Cleo begins an affair with Fermín (Jorge Antonio Guerrero), who seems more interesting in twirling his cane and practicing martial arts than being a decent human being. One of the characters is presumably Cuarón, although the families don’t quite match up.

Despite the digital jiggery poker, it is an old fashioned film, a 1960s or earlier social realist European art house movie. The camera loves Cleo, and Fermín, and 1970s Mexico City. It demands a patience I wasn’t quite in the mood to give it.

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