There’s a lot of discussion around a major awards contender being released primarily on Netflix. Some people are glad it will be wildly available so quickly, others believe it deserves to be seen on the big screen, and there are those that think streaming films shouldn’t be up for awards. For my own movie watching experience, I need to see it in a theater. Not because I want to fully experience the cinematography or because that’s what the artist intended, but merely because that’s the only way to guarantee that I pay attention. There’s too many distractions at home, so if a movie is truly as magnificient as I’ve been hearing, I want to watch it in a way that I can’t escape it. For me, that experience was worth it with Roma.
Roma is Alfonso Cuarón’s deeply personal film about a middle class Mexican family in the early 70’s, seen thru the eyes of Cleo, the young housekeeper who lives with them. That simple. Cleo goes thru the highest of highs and lowest of lows, and the family goes thru the highest of highs and lowest of lows. But thru it all, there’s a love that keeps all of them together.
On a technical level, this film is brilliant. Beautiful cinematography and exquisite storytelling. But for me, that was just the icing. The characters are what drew me in, much more strongly than I usually am with a character piece (I typically prefer a stronger thru story). And I know exactly why that was the case. While this is an incredibly personal film for Cuaron, it felt like an incredibly personal film for me too.
You prolly know this by now, but I grew up in a border town. What you prolly didn’t know was that it is incredibly common for everyone to have a housekeeper, like Cleo. It’s more rare not to have someone, at least coming once or twice a week if not staying with you full time. We had so many of these women staying with us over the years. Some young, some old, some here legally, most sending the bulk of their pay home to their families. Many of these ladies became part of our family while they were here.
My mind always goes first to Geli (pronounced hell-y). She worked for us when I was tiny and then again when I was older. She took such good care of me (not that my parents didn’t, they were wonderful, but working parents can’t be home 100% of the time). She’d braid my hair and we’d play games and watch tv. The second time around, I had to be on a strict diet because of some medication I was taking, and she got so creative in the kitchen putting together fun and healthy meals for me. My mom still hears from her occasionally. She’s happily married (to an American) with children of her own, who I know are getting the absolute best care.
Then there’s stories that I don’t remember who they went with, I just know they happened. There was the girl who loved watching Mary Tyler Moore with me. She didn’t understand English, but was still drawn to the show, and would run into the room when she heard the characters’ voices. There were the silly games I’d make up that they’d play with me. My earliest memory is crying hysterically as my mom was leaving for work, and our housekeeper was holding me tightly trying to distract me with the tv.
Right now, my mom has Yasmin and her family. That relationship has lasted for well over a decade. I may have the order of events wrong, but I think it started with her husband Simon being my grandparents’ caretaker. Then he became my mom’s gardener. Then Yasmin started cleaning my mom’s house. Later their daughter Lili would be my mom’s dogsitter. They’ll often stay at my mom’s house if the border crossing is getting difficult (even with them being legally allowed to work in the US). Esp when Lili is staying with the dog for the week, her parents usually join her. Every week when I call home, my mom’s usually got some story about one of them. They’ll never know how truly grateful I am for them being there to take care of my mom. They’ve been with her thru so much, and any time she mentions a way that she can help them out, I tell her to do it without any hesitation.
I bring up all of this to illustrate that I truly do know the emotions and that bond that Cuaron was trying to capture. His attention to detail blew me away. Little things, like the way Cleo would hold the dog back when the family would get home or how she’d refer to “Senora Sofia” would take me back to childhood memories I haven’t thought about in years. Not only did I not have trouble believing that Cleo was part of the family, I knew it with every fiber of my being. And I cared for her in the same way. My heart broke for her over and over as the story played out.
So sit where you’re gonna sit on the debate of whether this needs to be seen in theaters or if Netflix is fine. See it how you’re gonna see it, just see it. I know I needed to give it the attention it deserved, and for me that meant the theater.
Roma – \m/ \m/ \m/ \m/