What happens at the end of Roma, and what does it all mean? One of Netflix's boldest films acquisitions so far, Roma is the latest project from director Alfonso Cuarón. A celebrated filmmaker whose major works so far include Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Children of Men and Gravity, Cuaron's newest is more biographical, a picture about family life in early 1970s Mexico City.
That's not to suggest Roma isn't as technical and grand Alfonso's other work, far from it - it features many of his trademark long takes and uses a complex soundscape to recreate the setting - but the drama and storytelling of the movie is more humanistic and intimate, following a maid and the family that employs her as they go through a tough year involving pregnancy, divorce and political strife.
RELATED: Our Roma Review
As such, the comings and goings of different characters can be missed, and themes glossed over among all the dialogue and wide-angle shots. Let's break down what occurs in Roma's ending and contextualize it historically.
- This Page: What Roma's Ending Really Means
- Page 2: The Historical Context of Roma
What Roma's Ending Means
Roma's last act throws a lot at the audience after two-acts of relatively small events. Cleo (Yalitza Aparicio) has her baby, but it is stillborn, leading to her having post-mortem depression. The baby's father, Fermín (Jorge Antonio Guerrero), had rejected her and threatened to beat her up if she tried to contact him again – he later stumbles onto her while looting a store with friends during the Corpus Christi student riots (and event that leads to her ill-fated labor).
The family Cleo works for has also begun coming to terms with their father, Antonio, also abandoning them. The mother, Sofia (Marina de Tavira), finally explains to the children he wasn't on a business trip but had moved out and, going by his failure to send any sort of financial aid back to them, will not be coming back. The last set-piece of Roma is a family holiday they take so Antonio can take his things out of the family home.
It's on that holiday that the climax of the narrative occurs, in which two of the children almost drown swimming at the beach, only for Cleo to save them. All the kids, Cleo and Sofia huddle together after the incident, Cleo breaking down and admitting she didn't really want her child, and Sofia telling her the family loves her and they want to keep her around. Roma's final scene then has the family returning home, getting used to the slight alterations from their now gone father's things, and regular life resuming.
The conflict, as it were, had been survived because of the unity Cleo, the other maid Adela and the remaining family have in each other. Cleo caring for the children allows Sofia to work full-time and process losing her husband, and the family home serves as a strong foundation from which Cleo receives value and routine that stops her from being too consumed by the traumatic events.
Fermín Becomes Radicalized
A key plot in Roma is the child of Fermín and Cleo. Before the young couple get in bed together in a hotel room, he demonstrates his martial arts skills and explains to her that martial arts saved his life. He grew up in slums fostered by his aunt, and had become involved in criminal activity, drinking and doing drugs. The discipline and principles of control and internal calm helped him make a better life for himself, all of which is revealed to be a shallow platitude when he abandons Cleo at a movie theater.
When she shows up to a martial arts practice heavily pregnant, he informs her he will beat her and the child should she try to track down any more. They incidentally end up confronting each other when he robs the furniture store she's in during a riot. He stares at her for a moment before running out with his accomplices, Cleo then going into labor. It unfolds in the background, but Fermín is a representation of the radicalized Mexico unfolding in the background of Roma.
Antonio Leaves His Family
One of the least-seen major characters, Fernando Grediago's Antonio is only on-screen in Roma for mere moments overall. The doctor is revealed to be a pedantic man in his most prolific sequence where he meticulously parks his car in the driveway of the house. He's heard arguing with Sofie about the work of the maids, citing the amount of dog manure in the driveway. He's later seen driving away from a conference in Quebec, Canada under duress from Sofie, and later again one of the kids spots him outside a movie theater with a young woman. It's presumed that his children will have a minimal relationship with him at best.