A truth­ful tale told without pol­i­tics When a movie of­fers the needed respite from what ails us

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary - By Suzanne Fields

Weary of be­ing hit over the head with po­lit­i­cal right­eous­ness, self-cen­tered virtue, and glib judg­ments de­liv­ered left and right with ar­ro­gance and self-sat­is­fac­tion? Tired of hear­ing about “us” ver­sus “them,” the no­bles against the de­plorables? Sick of be­ing en­cour­aged to sneer at “the other,” whether Demo­crat or Repub­li­can, lib­eral or con­ser­va­tive, cap­i­tal­ist or so­cial­ist, any­one who dis­agrees with you on just about any­thing and is ea­ger to tell you about it?

Well, if you’re crav­ing a lit­tle com­plex­ity in the dis­cus­sion, even a lit­tle ci­vil­ity, you might shut off the so­cial me­dia and go to the movies.

Cul­tural at­ti­tudes have gen­er­ally suf­fered from the same di­vi­sions that af­fect po­lit­i­cal ones, but ev­ery so of­ten an artist cap­tures on screen our hu­man­ity, with all of its in­con­sis­ten­cies, virtues and sins, for­ti­tudes and frail­ties, and re­fuses to deal in ide­o­log­i­cal stereo­types be­cause each of us is more than a per­son­i­fi­ca­tion of an at­ti­tude, more than an idea abused by pol­i­tics.

A black-and-white movie with in­fi­nite shades of gray cre­ates one of those rare mo­ments that moves a viewer to re­flect on men and women in full, rooted in their daily lives and not con­sumed by iden­tity pol­i­tics.

I’m talk­ing about “Roma,” which caught crit­ics by sur­prise and more power for it. It’s the work of a Mex­i­can about Mex­i­cans in Mex­ico, peo­ple we rarely hear about un­less they’ve joined a car­a­van to swarm across a por­ous bor­der, or maybe sneaked into the coun­try, and once here hired to cut the grass, chop veg­eta­bles or take care of our kids. Some­times, to be sure, we hear about them when they get caught rob­bing, rap­ing and killing. But some­times these cases are gen­er­al­ized for rhetor­i­cal im­pact, and we lose sight of the in­di­vid­ual lost in stereo­types. They be­come in­vis­i­ble, hard-work­ing men and women dis­missed as eth­nics, who suf­fer the com­mon ex­pe­ri­ences of life with all of its hard­ships and para­doxes.

Gen­er­al­iza­tion makes ar­gu­ment easy, but it doesn’t il­lu­mi­nate char­ac­ter, show the para­doxes in the in­ti­mate sit­u­a­tions which re­veal hu­man for­ti­tude and fail­ure with the in­sight and em­pa­thy they de­serve. We get the right stuff this time in a movie. “Roma” touches us in the hu­man con­di­tion, as in­di­vid­u­als not within a tribal iden­tity. There’s pol­i­tics in the movie, and you can bring con­ser­va­tive and lib­eral judg­ments to it if you want. Both Rolling Stone and Na­tional Re­view mag­a­zines praised it, and a critic in the New Yorker pans it for re­duc­ing pol­i­tics to the per­sonal, adopt­ing the per­spec­tive of art-house elites who typ­i­cally ex­alt a work­ing-class hero to bur­nish their own con­sciences without look­ing for real un­der­stand­ing. But its quiet glory, its pity and fear, its em­pa­thetic ex­pe­ri­ence rises from the or­di­nary that lacks ide­ol­ogy. It demon­strates, as Na­tional Re­view put it, that what mat­ters most is what hap­pens in your fam­ily, not this week’s march in the streets.

Cleo is an indige­nous Mix­tec woman who works hard for a liv­ing, poor com­pared to her em­ployer, but she’s rich in emo­tional sen­si­tiv­ity, car­ing for the four chil­dren of a bour­geois cou­ple. Through each scene of an “Up­stairs Down­stairs”-like telling of the tale, she be­comes a per­son we get to know in­side her work and out­side in her play. She’s no po­lit­i­cal pawn.

The mother who em­ploys her is de­mand­ing in ways that are some­times mean, but when called to a big life is­sue, such as Cleo’s preg­nancy with a man who aban­dons her, she shows her­self to be a stand-up woman. When you first see Cleo car­ry­ing laun­dry through the big house, she re­flects a dig­nity without cliche. When she’s with the chil­dren, she ex­presses a gen­tle kind­ness as though they are hers. Ul­ti­mately she is brave as well, res­cu­ing two of them from a rough sea on the beach, rais­ing her to a heroic fig­ure who does what’s right though dan­ger­ous be­cause it’s the right thing to do. This is what au­di­ences are re­spond­ing to.

“Roma” re­fuses to in­cite, but plants seeds for re­flec­tion on how one fam­ily deals with the cards life deals. A nat­u­ral fem­i­nism unites

A black-and-white movie with in­fi­nite shades of gray cre­ates one of those rare mo­ments that moves a viewer to re­flect on men and women in full, rooted in their daily lives and not con­sumed by iden­tity pol­i­tics. A still from the film ‘Roma’

the mother and the house­keeper when they’re both treated badly by toxic men in their lives. The ghost of colo­nial­ism haunts the movie but doesn’t over­take it. Courage and vil­lainy in ev­ery­day ex­pe­ri­ences are the fo­cus for ev­ery­day lives. Al­fonso Cuaron, the di­rec­tor who won an Os­car for his 2013 movie “Grav­ity,” has moved from the macro­cosm of as­tro­nauts stranded in space to the mi­cro­cosm of the Mex­ico City neigh­bor­hood where he grew up, and now re­calls his life there as a child with both a lov­ing mother and de­voted house­keeper. It’s re­fresh­ing and af­fect­ing. This movie is good for what ails you.

Now we can re­turn to Page One and the fa­mil­iar rants and rages that make a mere movie the respite you need. Suzanne Fields is a colum­nist for The Wash­ing­ton Times and is na­tion­ally syn­di­cated.

ESPERANTO FILMOJ

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