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Citlaly Chavez

Mr. Jose Hernandez

Race, Class, & Gender 2002

30 March 2019

Roma Film Analysis

In a film that encompasses high-art and the compassion of human, Alfonso Cuaron’s film

Roma gives the audience a view that they may have never seen before- by bringing them into the

life of a Mexican domestic worker named Cleo. Cuaron gives the viewers an insight into a life he

lived, as well as covers issues of discrimination if various areas and tells a narrative that many

ignore. Alfonso Cuaron’s film Roma is filled with many hidden meanings that fill the structure

of the story as well as help give the viewer a deeper understanding of the context of the movie.

The film begins with airplanes flying through the sky, as seen in a reflection in the water

on the floor. However, this theme continues throughout the movie almost as a way to show that

things keep on moving. The world is bigger than the issues the characters are going through and

it almost seems minuscule when you think of the bigger things out there. Metaphorically, the

airplanes represent an outside world that Cleo has to come to terms with- especially when the

film ends with this symbol.

Besides the airplane, a more obvious symbol represented through the film is water. A

time when the audience seems to be put most on edge is when the droplets fall from a sink in

various scenes. It acts as a clock- an analogy that may put many on edge- sometimes with a

downpour and other times with still water and reflections. It makes the audience feel as if time is

running out and achieves the portrayal of anxiety that Cleo feels when her life takes a turn.
The film follows western story-telling that lets the viewers search for the themes instead

of being distracted trying to follow a storyline. While the structure is very traditional the way

Cuaron seems to use it and set it up is not. The beginning is slow and mundane allowing the

viewers to take in the daily life of Cleo and how she deals with the family employing her

especially Sofia- the mother of the family. In the opening scenes, the viewer can see the close

relationship she has with the kids who don’t yet understand the class division between them

while the parents treat her as a servant. Slowly things start to turn in her world when Sofia starts

having problems with her husband and Cleo is introduced to a man who later disappears when

she becomes pregnant. At this point, the first act is completed as Cuaron leaves the action for the

second and largest act of the film.

When Cleo announces her pregnancy to Sofia the viewer is shown the real terror she feels

when she thinks she’s going to be fired. The class division is very apparent but is overshadowed

by bond these two women develop. They bond together as both of their partners start to slip

away from their lives and many times, they serve as supporters to one another. However, while

her life is a servant looks more like she is a part of the family she works for, this is quickly

changed in many interactions with other domestic workers who aren’t treated as well by the

classes who employ them.

Something that becomes apparent as the film moves forward is the racial divide

integrated with the class division. All the domestic workers in the lower class are people who

come from indigenous culture while the employers are all white and of European descent.

Cuaron makes this a large theme he tries to convey to the viewers, that although Cleo is tried to

make part of the family, the class and racial divide doesn’t allow it.
Throughout her pregnancy, Cleo faces a few dilemmas she struggles to get through. She

faces the father of her child in two instances, fights a fire, and is caught in the middle of a violent

protest. By her side is always Sofia or her mother- her employers who seem to take care of her as

a child yet still treat her like a maid. This second act is full of self-discovering for Cleo and

Cuaron makes sure to focus on her view of the world around her in this long and emotional

segment.

The last act is one that is surprisingly relieving. Once she gives birth to her child that

doesn’t make it alive, there is a deep connection between Cleo on the screen and the viewer. It is

such a raw and human scene that makes the audience forget about who she is and her division-

she is just a person who has gone through a terribly traumatic experience. This is something that

ends making Cleo closer to Sofia and her kids which is encouraged by the vacation they take at

the end. The closing is a conclusion for both of them who bond together and encourage the

theme of the female bond.

Both Sophia and Cleo are left by the men who started the mess in their lives- and its a big

ode to female empowerment that Cuaron seems to thematically follow. He makes is obvious that

the two women only have each other and it's not a forceful message for the viewer- the story just

happened to be one of that nature.

The intersectional issues Cuaron explore in his film are the big themes that show up in a

very mundane instance. The obvious one as explained is gender and feminism which are the

biggest definer on how the movie concludes with both women finding peace with each other but

the separation of class is still present. Sophia and Cleo are still divided by their class and race.
Cleo is still a maid employed under Sophia and while she is now treated with higher regard, she

is still in the position of a worker picking up their clothes and arranging the house.

The film not only covers personal issues but portrays large issues into something more

compact. It was not only a story of the women who find strength in one another, but a story on

Mexican psyche. There is a scar that runs deep in the collective conscious that deals with

equality in a variety of ways. Of course, class division and gender issues are big topics, but also

the violence that Mexico faces with the division of its people is one that is less obviously

explores. The protest and the lives lost in lower classes who try to fight for themselves and others

is an awakening to what Mexico is hiding in its politics.

The most important detail Cuaron kept for his film is the language. The characters all

spoke the Spanish that Cuaron grew up with but also includes a native tongue that Cleo

sometimes spoke. Of course, many who live outside Mexico wouldn’t realize the setting in a rich

neighborhood. With the news of Mexico usually being focussed on the lower classes, it is often

forgotten that rich families in Mexico lead live like those in the United States. There are small

details, like washing the pavement and the small carts that sell street food, that may break the

viewer's perception.

There are also technical elements that Cuaron decides to use in the making of his film.

The lack of color in this black and white film is one that startles many and takes some getting

used too- but it also acts as a barrier between the viewer and the characters. It is something that is

not seen often in modern cinema and it gives the viewer context as to when the film is supposed

to be set. However, it also forces the audience to focus on the story and forget the distractions

that may come in color.


Cuaron also uses freedom in breaking many cinematography rules especially when it

comes to camera movement. All the shots are slow and take long enough the make the viewer

uncomfortable- but in a way that is familiar. The camera is usually panning to the right and

sometimes up, and he uses it to lead the audience and keep the attention on long scenes. There is

always movement happening that feels real. He uses this as a connection to an audience that may

otherwise not at all relate to the story and gives them something to grasp onto.

Cuaron uses his brilliant vision to create a film that explores issues others are afraid to

touch. He discusses feminism and women empowerment without forcing it to the audience and

gives credit to the people who helped raise him. Topics of class division and the ties with

discrimination are thoroughly explored by following a domestic worker and her employer. Not

only in these personal stories does he give the audience something to think about, but also in a

bigger context with the power balance in Mexico does he encourage conversation.