Film Review:‘Roma’ delivers soul, spirit — and a dash of Mexican magic

A still from 'Roma.' (Supplied)
Updated 19 December 2018

Film Review:‘Roma’ delivers soul, spirit — and a dash of Mexican magic

  • “Roma,” weaves a magical family tale with endearing simplicity and sensitivity
  • The film is set in a prosperous household in Mexico City’s Roma neighborhood in the early 1970s

CHENNAI: Tipped as a strong Oscar contender, Alfonso Cuaron’s magnificent black-and-white magnum opus, “Roma,” weaves a magical family tale with endearing simplicity and sensitivity.

The film is set in a prosperous household in Mexico City’s Roma neighborhood in the early 1970s. But its soul and spirit come from the maid, Cleo (Yalitza Aparicio), who takes care of the family — and their pet dog — with clockwork precision.

Based on Cuaron’s own maid when he was growing up, Cleo is seen cleaning the driveway as the movie opens, and we later see her doing the laundry, taking the four children to school and helping out in the kitchen. For the most part, Cleo hardly speaks, and appears stoic and solemn, but she shares a beautiful bond with her mistress, Sofia (Marina de Tavira).

Dotted with intimate detail, “Roma” is a splendid study of a family whose idyllic life goes into a tailspin, as does that of the maid. Scenes including the children trying to put out a forest fire while on holiday are so finely shot that they remain etched in memory.

There are many more such moments: A man shot dead in a furniture shop during the 1971 Corpus Christi massacre; Cleo saving two children from drowning in the sea. It is rare to see such thought going into a film, and the compelling black-and-white photography — handled by Cuaron (who also wrote and co-edited) — give “Roma” a strong documentary feel.

The film continues to make headlines after appearing on Netflix on Dec. 14. It premiered at the Venice Film Festival, where it clinched the Golden Lion for best picture, and is now on the first shortlist for the 2019 foreign language Oscar.

Cuaron, who gave us the exhilarating “Y Tu Mama Tambien,” and fantasies such as “Gravity” and “Children of Men,” has created a neorealist work that is both grand in scale and extraordinarily intimate.


Second season of Sacred Games mirrors the ills of today’s India

Updated 18 August 2019

Second season of Sacred Games mirrors the ills of today’s India

  • The eight episodes explore some of India's most pressing current issues such as a nuclear threat, terrorism and inter-religious animosity
  • Some of the greatest films have had conflict and war as their backdrop

CHENNAI: The first season of “Sacred Games” last year was a hit, and the second edition, which began streaming on Netflix on Aug. 15, may be even more so. 

The eight episodes explore some of India's most pressing current issues such as a nuclear threat, terrorism and inter-religious animosity dating back to the country's 1947 partition. It. It also addresses how religious men can indulge in the most unholy of acts, including helping corrupt politicians. 

Some of the greatest films have had conflict and war as their backdrop: “Gone with the Wind,” “Casablanca,” “Ben-Hur” and “Garam Hawa,” to mention a few. The second season of “Sacred Games” also unfolds in such a scenario, with terrorism and inter-communal disharmony having a rippling effect on the nation. 

Directed by Anurag Kashyap (“Gangs of Wasseypur,” “Black Friday”) and Neeraj Ghaywan (“Masaan,” which premiered at Cannes in 2015), the web series, based on Vikram Chandra's 2006 novel, unfolds with Ganesh Gaitonde (played by Nawazuddin Siddiqui) escaping from prison and finding himself in Mombasa. He has been carted there by an agent of India's Research and Analysis Wing, Kusum Devi Yadav (Amruta Subhash), who forces him to help find Shahid Khan (Ranvir Shorey), the mastermind behind bomb blasts and terror attacks. 

In Mumbai, police inspector Sartaj (Saif Ali Khan) has just two weeks to save the city from a nuclear attack, which Gaitonde had warned him about. Both men love Mumbai and do not want it to be destroyed. But religious extremist Khanna Guruji (Pankaj Tripathi) and his chief disciple Batya Ableman (Kalki Koechlin) believe that only such a catastrophic destruction can help cleanse society and bring a cleaner, saner new order. 

A narrative of deceit, betrayal, love and longing, the second season has a plodding start, but picks up steam from the fourth episode, with Sartaj and his men racing against time to find a nuclear time bomb that could wipe out Mumbai. Crude dialogue and a constant doomsday atmosphere could have been avoided, but riveting performances by the lead pair – Khan and Siddiqui (though he is getting typecast in this kind of role) – and nail-biting thrills make this Netflix original dramatically captivating.