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  Roma Men Are ScumBuy this film here.
Year: 2018
Director: Alfonso Cuarón
Stars: Yalitza Aparicio, Marina de Tavira, Diego Cortina Autry, Carlos Peralta, Marco Graf, Daniela Demesa, Nancy García García, Verónica García, Andy Cortes, Fernando Grediaga, Jorge Antonio Guerrero, José Manuel Guerrero Mendoza, Latin Lover
Genre: Drama
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: It is the very early nineteen-seventies in Mexico, and for maid Cleo (Yalitza Aparicio) life is one of servitude where she spends her days and nights cleaning and cooking for a well-to-do family in the capital, with very little thanks and generally being taken for granted. The father of the house is barely there these days, for what he doesn't tell his three kids is that he has a mistress he prefers to be with over their mother Sofi (Marina de Tavira); she is aware of her husband's infidelity, but is powerless to win him back. Meanwhile Cleo has been starting her courting with a young martial artist, Fermin (Jorge Antonio Guerrero), and is hopeful he will stay by her through thick and thin...

Some hope of that in writer, director and cinematographer Alfonso Cuarón's biographical tale, though it was not strictly his own biography that he concentrated on, it was that of his family's maid, Libo, to whom the film was dedicated. A sweet gesture, you might have thought, until you learn the maid situation in Mexico is something akin to the poorest members of society, women at that, being slaves to the better off, in many cases far more better off, which made sense of the overwhelming shame the entire project contained. It was as if Cuarón was making up for the sins of his class structure that had benefited him so much and had done so little for the likes of poor old Libo.

More than that, there was shame at belonging to an entire gender, as men as a whole were given a right kicking thematically, the cause of all the misery in the world with their deeply misguided pursuit of power, be that power over nations, over a city, a household or just one woman, all of it was horrendous according to Roma. The upper classes of society (Sofi) were contrasted with the lower classes (Cleo) and neither emerged as better than the other when it came to the behaviour of the males, as Sofi's husband uses his privilege to live it up with some bit on the side we just know he will dump eventually for a younger model just as he has done with his wife, who gets nothing.

Cleo, meanwhile, has Fermin, who being her first love seems charming, but the nanosecond she tells him he's made her pregnant he can't get away fast enough, and later in the film when she tracks him down to his martial arts classes - led by a macho buffoon all the men naturally think is just great - he basically threatens her with the violence he has learned at those lessons and tells her to stay out of his life. No wonder she is not even sure she wants the baby now, and the manner in which this main plotline is concluded would be extremely harsh and aggressive without the compassion Cuarón wishes us to feel for Cleo, never mind with it. Time and again, the menfolk reveal themselves to be wholly self-centred, bullying to get their way, utterly uninterested in the emotions they are trampling over every day...

You get the idea, but if you thought you wouldn't fancy over two hours of black and white pans over domesticity and various locations around Mexico shot in the same way that told you every couple of minutes what utter bastards men are, then, well, avoid Roma, since that was more or less how it could be summed up. The thing was, you did not necessarily disagree with the director's conclusions, it was based on his real life experiences and those of the women in his past after all, so even a grain of truth was present, and likely more, yet he was satisfied to expose this dreadful activity without offering any hope it could change. Maybe that's how he regarded the situation, and there was little evidence male chauvinism and what came to be known as toxic masculinity was going away any time soon, yet as the same went for the class struggles and injustices that bubble away in the background, erupting into riots every so often, it was such a pessimistic story of human nature that it was difficult to recommend to anybody but other pessimists. Misery loves company.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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