I was not sure what sort of a film this was – just a story for its own sake; a memoir of a son’s early family experiences; an expression of the good and the bad of being human; or a treatise on the different parenting potential of the two sexes. So, I have written a summary, which covers all the options. This will give me time to make up my mind before writing the review.
Cleo is a live-in maid in a middle-class home in the Roma area of Mexico City. The family comprises the wife, Sofía, her husband, Antonio, grandmother Teresa, their four young children, and another maid, Adela. They all live together. Antonio, a doctor, leaves for a conference. Sofía and Antonio’s marriage is under strain. After a brief return, Antonio leaves again ‘for a few weeks’.
Cleo and Adela go to the cinema with their boyfriends, Fermín and Ramón respectively. Cleo tells Fermín that she thinks she is pregnant. Fermín goes to the toilet, but does not return. Cleo reveals her concern to Sofía, who takes her for a check up to her hospital. A doctor confirms she is pregnant.
Sofía takes Cleo, Adela, and her children to a friend’s country home for the New Year. During the celebrations, a fire breaks out in the forest. Everyone helps put it out.
Back home, the family goes to the cinema. They see Antonio come out with a younger woman—something Sofía tries to conceal from the children, but fails. Cleo locates Fermín at an outdoor martial-arts class; but he refuses to acknowledge the baby as his. He threatens to beat her and child, if he is pestered again.
With the baby almost due, Teresa takes Cleo shopping for a cot. Students are protesting in the streets. It turns violent. The police beat up the students. A youth paramilitary group shoots protesters. A man entering the store is shot dead. Another gunman pointing a gun at Cleo, turns out to be Fermín. He glares at her and then runs off.
Cleo’s water breaks. Cleo, Teresa, and their driver try to get to the hospital; but are stuck in traffic amongst the violent protests. At the hospital, Cleo’s baby is stillborn. Attempts to resuscitate the it fail.
Sofía plans a family holiday at the seaside. She takes Cleo along as well. Sofía tells the children that she and their father have separated. The holiday is so their father can collect his belongings from their home. At the beach, two of the children are almost carried off by a strong current. Cleo wades in to save them, even though she cannot swim. As Sofía and the children express their love for Cleo for her selfless devotion, she breaks down and reveals that she had not wanted her baby to be born. They return home to Roma to find the house strange, after Antonio has removed his stuff. Cleo prepares the wash, telling Adela they have much to talk about. The closing scene sees Cleo climbing ladders to the rooftop with the clothes.
I have invited a few people, who have seen the film, to contribute a review/critique/appreciation. I aim to publish them simultaneously. If any one wants to join in, please do. There are so few decent films these days; but this seems to be one of them.