The movie details the life of a female housekeeper during the early 1970s.
Alfonso Cuaron, director of “Gravity,” most certainly delivers in this film.
First thing to make note of this film is the first shot. It shows the housekeepers cleaning the driveway for the family they work under. Afterwards, the camera pans left/right and moves along with the main character Cleo, played by Yalitza Aparico. The first 5-10 minutes are very well done at establishing her character, the environment she works in, and the life she leads. It also very well establishes the other characters including Cleo’s housekeeper friend, Adela, and the family.
The cinematography in the movie is superb. It is nicely done at establishing the world the characters are in and the movie lets the visuals do the talking rather than words. The camera movement is slow enough, but not too fast, to let the audience get absorbed into the film and know what is going on.
Along with this, the editing is not in fast cuts. The camera would like to stay in a scene for an adequate amount of time before jumping into the next scene. Which ties right into the pacing, which is great. Each scene gets enough screen time where one doesn’t get bored by how slow it is or blinks by how fast it goes.
The black/white component for the film was something that interested me while watching early on and I believe it compliments it. It works hand in hand with the plot, story, and tone of the movie. What the film does is basically show the audience a piece of life about one individual. Even though the main character is a housekeeper and that might not relate to everyone watching, but certain aspects that do happen to her and the family, do.
The performances from everyone are great. Aparico was great in the role and it’s crazy to think that she hadn’t had any acting experience beforehand. The family was great, including the children. To which they acted like real children and didn’t sound like real actors.
One of the things that I thought was going to be touched upon was this movie dealing with racism. But no actually, I was pleasantly surprised. I love that this family is caring, nice, and respectful to Cleo. When Cleo is thinking that she is pregnant and fears of being fired, the mother is all around supportive of her. It was only in a couple scenes in where the mother does snap at Cleo, but that’s only because she herself is going through struggles in her life as well. To which by the end of the film, they all come together and move away from the past to get stronger. By this point, one truly feels for the things that both Cleo and the family have gone through. One wants to see everyone in the movie triumph over their past and succeed in the future.
The emotions that are portrayed in this film hit home. Like I said, you truly feel for what a character is feeling. One feels very sorry for Cleo as she has to deal with not only her job but also dealing with her pregnancy and the father of the child being a dead-beat. One also feels sorry for the mother, who is going through marital problems with her husband. As well as the scene in the third act when she has to break the sad news to her four children.
The film offers good subtle moments throughout to bring forward further context for the plot. One prominent scene that comes to mind is when the mother is driving Cheo to the hospital and she tries to squeeze through two big trucks on the road but fails. This little scene might seem a bit weird, but it was foreshadowing of what’s to come for Cheo later on in the film.
There were certain moments where clips from a certain film would play. One film shown is called “Marooned,” which is not only a nod to the director’s own film “Gravity.” But it may also indicate the bond that Cheo and the mother have, is something that shouldn’t be broken. They have each other’s backs. Another scene is when the father is getting his big car in the tiny driveway. This may indicate that situations in the family life is not working out, which is why the mother toward the end had to buy a smaller car. Now I maybe digging a little deep, but that’s how I interpreted these scenes.
Now with all the praise, I do have one gripe with it and it has to do with the subplot involving Cheo’s ex-boyfriend. This goes along with the political aspects that this movie brings forth. I don’t think it was bad necessarily, it was acted very well and shot nicely. But in the long run, it seemed to be kind of pointless. If the film would have not shown the ex again after he left Cheo in a movie theater, I think it would have been better. I was more interested in the life of Cheo and how she gets along with the family. It wasn’t a distraction, but more or less, filler.
A nitpick I have is when this movie takes nods from “American Sniper.” What I mean by this is that the film has some very obvious fake babies. It was so bad and I can see the plastic shine coming off from them.
The positives though really outshine the negatives a lot in this film. This is a definite must-see for anyone. The movie has characters you can relate to, the cinematography is great, the emotional resonance is there, and it’s just all around a simple, yet great movie dealing with life itself.