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Film Analysis: Roma and Milk of Sorrow


The story of Roma revolves around an upper-middle-class family living in Mexico. The film tells the parallel tale of two classes, two races, and two women who are neglected in the same time. One is a maid, Cleo, of Indian descent, born to the toiling masses. Her lover, Fermín, is a social “loafer.” The female employer, Sofía, is of white origin, born into the intellectual and elite class. Her husband, Antonio, is a prominent doctor. Sofia has four children, but her husband runs away with his mistress under the pretense of a business trip, and she continues to keep the family together by hiding the truth. The Milk of Sorrow revolves around a poor Peruvian girl named Fasta, who looks like an empty but persistent abused doll. In Peru, during the terrorist war, women who were ill-treated or raped got some diseases. Fasta’s mother contracted the disease in the process. Fasta on the other hand contracted the disease from drinking her mother’s milk which was known as “milk of the broken heart.” Fasta’s mother died from the disease a issue that Fasta was really afraid of. She was fearful of death both for herself and her mother as well as her unpredictable future. This paper therefore seeks to compare and contrast the two films as well as present an analysis of the same.

Roma is a story that combines realism and idealism very well. On the other hand, Milk of Sorrow is a rap song that soothes the soul. Both of the stories tend to express the idea that the decadent and luxurious life of the upper class contrasts sharply with the lower class. These ideas are sharply expressed through the protagonist’s perspectives, where the ordinary people are indicated as desolate while the rich live good lives. Although the two films come from different countries, their historical backgrounds are similar. Both are from troubled countries where the Mexican government suppressed the revolution with violence and gunfire. The stories provide an intersection of social unrest and personal destiny. For instance, there is a deeper context of repression for class and racial antagonism in Mexico in the film Roma. The film reflects the conflict in the society between the rich and the poor. The elite class acquired land, farms, and other properties through the government and the military. They were also free to enjoy activities such as hunting while the poor were forced to provide manual labor and depend on the elite class.

On the other hand, the people in power oversaw the drawing of borders. Therefore, they made arrangements on how to create boundaries without considering the stateless nations’ territorial dynamics. During Christmas, for instance, the estate owner, his friends, and his relatives sing and dance in a large, warm, open house while the Indian servants are huddled in a small, dark basement, whispering their New Year’s wishes. However, it is ironic that when the forest fire broke out, it was the Indian natives who were at the forefront of fighting it. The film depicts the history of life that was deeply engraved in society during the time. For instance, during the year 1968, the country was hosting the Olympic games. Before the games, there was a brutal crackdown of the student movement in Mexico, known as the “Tlatelolco Incident.” (Perez Reyna, 2019). The incident was initiated by the Olympia Battalion, a group formed to prepare for Olympic security, which received orders to arrest the leaders of the student movement and sparked clashes that killed hundreds of students. One of the characters in the film helps to signify the impact of the riots and how families were separated, killed, and other activities such as human trafficking were carried out.

The Milk of Sorrow is set in post-conflict Peru. The heroine’s mother was present during the political violence, and before she died, she recalled the history and her experiences through chanting. Her mother dies, but the heroine, pregnant at the time, does not escape the fear of the unrest and suffers from a strange disease called “fear of breasts.” As an indirect victim of the disease, it left a profound legacy on Fausta’s body and mind. Because of the illness and her fear of men, she became increasingly self-absorbed, and to “protect herself,” she put potatoes in her lower body to avoid the same abuse as her mother (Rojas, 2017). Her mother was raped at a time when Peru was undergoing through armed struggle in 1980 and 1992. Peru had undergone through so many military coups before 1980. The government then sought to ensure that the economy is reorganized. Still, it was never good enough, and Sendero Luminoso, became more extreme by employing guerilla warfare in an effort to overthrow the government. The army then was involved in warfare as they tried to clear the men out. Therefore, they intimidated women through rape. The film deliberately avoids violent scenes and focuses on how people reset after the trauma and destruction they have suffered. The film takes the heroine’s personal experience as a clue but does not overplay the inner world. The director always keeps a distance from the character and calmly describes her real suffering. The heroine is the second generation of the direct victims, still suffering from the trauma perpetrated by her mother. Still, the pot of potato flowers delivered by the gardeners at the end of the film and the heroine’s smile foretell the beginning of her future happy life.

Both films have lovely camera work and style. Roma’s many close-ups and bird’s-eye views are profoundly meaningful, and Cuaron certainly saves the best for last. Breathtaking long shots of the family walking back and forth between the beach and the big waves, with the sunset behind them stretching the horizon infinitely into the future. To capture the characters’ state, for example, the creator must be highly focused, as many opportunities are fleeting. The dialogue of the children, the rhythm of the camera, the change of light, the mood of the characters (Rucker-Chang, 2018). All factors directly affect the unified style and atmosphere of the film. The last shot is of the maid walking up the steps, meaning that the trajectory of her and the family’s life is starting to move in a positive direction, in a good way.

Alfonso Cuaron has always dreamed of being a pilot and an astronaut since he was a child. The dream-like swaying of the plane in the bubble reflection expresses the beginning of the film. The director wants to start reminiscing about his childhood. The aircraft is the brand of the director’s childhood. The director wants to start making dreams. The real airplane crossing the sky at the end and the thank-you message to the director’s nanny LiPo represent that the director has finally realized his childhood dream and made a private film for his hometown, childhood, and mother-like nanny. The whole movie, whether it is inside the house, shooting a nanny in the house late at night to turn off the lights, or outdoor people hunting in the forest, all show Alfonso’s fantastic camera and scheduling, as smooth as the flow of the master lens language so that the audience are mesmerized. The good thing about Alfonso Cuaron’s camera is that it does not dully follow the characters but allows them to flow in a scene. The movement of the characters is a brush, in the location spontaneous and precise sculpture of the epic painting of tranquility and depth. The black and white reflection is also presented with more historical weight, with an authentic and cold texture to record that era and the childhood life of Alfonso Cuaron.

The Milk of Sorrow is a film that begins with sound and image, and like all films from developing or traumatized countries, it has a dark gray tone, a strong sense of camera work, and an obscure but profound off-screen meaning that the director is trying to convey. The Milk of Sorrow, a film by a Peruvian woman, won the Golden Bear, thanks to the Berlinale’s love of political themes and the coincidence of a female jury president. The Milk of Sorrow focuses on the ongoing effects of violence on people and the human perspective of regaining life after suffering (Županović, 2019). This is a brutal film, the background after the turmoil is undoubtedly mixed with blood, violence, and individual trauma. But the director intentionally avoids the horrific scenes and uses hidden techniques to make all the proper scenes of violence appear in the audience’s mind instead of presenting them on the screen. The mother’s lyrics, the earth sprouts growing from Fasta’s cut lower body, and other episodes are not set inside the camera but strictly delineated outside the camera. The obscurity of the camera and the director’s almost harsh image composition make this film a film that expresses thoughts and meanings in-camera focus. Fasta’s inner confinement and sorrow are depicted on the screen by the director without leaving any room for error. She keeps the principle that there is always only the heroine in the picture, strictly controlling the camera’s turn and the picture’s take. When watching the film, the audience will notice that the camera is always focused on Fasta when there is a rival scene or a dialogue. Occasionally a hand or a prop enters the edge of the picture, but the camera is still fixed on the heroine’s body.


From the analysis it is important to note that the producers of these two films were successful in creating the two films. However, the films are similar in that they depict similar instances of social situations for the main characters in the films. Peru and Mexico in the movie are depicted as troubled countries with some political unrests. Women and children are suffering from oppression being subjected to them. Theme of trauma is evident from the films as well. The films are successful in the use of cinematography and other film techniques to come up with an effective film. The producers help to represent some social issues facing the society such as differences between the rich and poor as well as trauma and oppression of the poor by the rich. The main characters in the films successfully play their roles in bringing out these themes to the general audience.


Perez Reyna, P. (2019). Auteurs on Netflix–A Reception Study of Roma (Alfonso Cuarón, 2018) (Master’s thesis).

Rojas, A. (2017). Mother of pearl, song and potatoes: Cultivating resilience in Claudia Llosa’s La teta asustada/Milk of Sorrow (2009). Studies in Spanish & Latin American Cinemas14(3), 297-314.

Rucker-Chang, S. (2018). Roma filmic representation as postcolonial “Object”. Interventions20(6), 853-867.

Županović, M. (2019). Ambiguity of the Trauma Narrative in Claudia Llosa’s The Milk of Sorrow. Interdisciplinary Description of Complex Systems: INDECS17(2-A), 294-303.


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