NEW YORK (CNS) — Grown viewers with long attention spans will find Catholicism subtly interwoven into “Roma” (Netflix), writer-director Alfonso Cuaron’s meditative autobiographical drama in which he muses on his childhood in the titular neighborhood of Mexico City in the early 1970s.
But graphic content restricts the appropriate audience for his journey down memory lane.
Thrill-seekers should also look elsewhere for entertainment since this low-key film unfolds at a very deliberate pace. The story focuses primarily on the father, Antonio’s (Fernando Grediaga) desertion of his wife, Sofia (Marina de Tavira), and on the out-of-wedlock pregnancy of the upper middle-class family’s devoted maid, Cleo (Yalitza Aparicio).
There’s a vaguely feminist tone to the proceedings as men, including Cleo’ s boyfriend, Fermin (Jorge Antonio Guerrero), behave badly for the most part, necessitating female solidarity. The negative effects of divorce are showcased along the way, especially after Sofia abandons the pretense that Antonio has gone away to Canada on a business trip and will return in due time.
Moviegoers of faith will appreciate the fact that characters, including Sophia’s mother, stately matriarch Teresa (Veronica Garcia), are seen praying — both as part of their daily routine and at moments of crisis. But a scene in which martial arts enthusiast Fermin demonstrates his skills for Cleo while completely naked may strike them as somewhat gratuitous.
Much of the run time is devoted to the ordinary events of everyday life, with Cleo sweeping and mopping and washing the dishes and the clan’s four children, Tono (Diego Cortina Autrey), Paco (Carlos Peralta), Sofi (Daniela Demesa) and Pepe (Marco Graf), squabbling inconsequentially among themselves. “Roma” feels realistic as a result, but patience is required to savor that quality.
The film contains full male nudity, a nonmarital sexual relationship, mature references, including to drug use, at least one profanity and a mild oath, a few rough terms and some crude language. The Catholic News Service classification is L — limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R — restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.
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