ROMA – Review by Susan Granger

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Netflix is enticing Oscar voters by releasing this immersive, black-and-white, semi-autobiographical film from Alfonso Cuaron (Gravity, Children of Men, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban) in a few theaters in addition to streaming on December 14th.

Set in 1971 in Mexico City’s Colonia Roma district, the opening scene is an optical illusion: the camera reveals the floor of a courtyard which turns into a mirror of an airplane in the sky above when soapy water flows across it.

It’s being mopped by Cleo (newcomer Yalitza Aparicio), an indigenous Mixteco from the southern state of Oaxaca; she works as a live-in maid/nanny for an upper-middle-class family.

Status-conscious Dr. Antonio (Fernando Grediaga) is often away on ‘business trips’ and drives a Ford Galaxy that’s too big for the carport. Short-tempered Senora Sofia (Marina de Tavira) is obviously harried. Their four school-age children adore Cleo, who stoically cleans up the turds left by their romping Alsatian.

Guileless Cleo has a boyfriend, Fermin (Jorge Antonio Guerrero), who’s devoted to martial arts, absurdly practicing nude with a shower rod. Before long, Dr. Antonio abandons Sofia for a mistress, just as selfish Fermin leaves Cleo pregnant and alone.

When the violent political upheaval known as the Corpus Christi Massacre in which nearly 120 student protestors were killed by government-supported paramilitaries, doleful Cleo views the mayhem through the window of the furniture store where goes into labor while shopping for a crib.

Sensitively written, insightfully directed and vibrantly photographed by Cuaron, it’s epic, yet intricately detailed in its depiction of loneliness.

Production designer Eugenio Caballero (Pan’s Labyrinth) found an abandoned house scheduled for demolition and recreated it to resemble Cuaron’s boyhood home. To insure authenticity because most of his actors are non-professionals, Cuaron shot in linear order, not revealing the plot twists to his cast.

The film is dedicated to Liboria “Libo” Rodriguez, the woman who helped raise Cuaron when parents divorced.

In Spanish with English subtitles, on the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, Roma is a tantalizing 10, a poignant, neorealist masterpiece that’s best viewed in theaters.

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, Phi Beta Kappa, with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.