When reading the scene-by-scene breakdown, I am struck by how the story goes against Hollywood conventional wisdom, specifically make sure the Protagonist has a conscious goal they pursue. This drives the narrative. That makes sense. It’s the simplest way to create narrative drive as the story’s central character has a point of focus which gives the story a spine as well as movement forward.
In Roma, the Protagonist (Cleo) has no apparent conscious goal. Yes, for a time, she wishes to find Fermín and get him to accept some responsibility for the child she is carrying which he fathered, but that’s just for a sequence. Much of the Act Two structure derives from two subplots: Cleo’s pregnancy and Sofía’s failing marriage with Antonio. And ironically, Cleo has more of a negative goal revealed in the story’s Final Struggle in which Cleo saves the children from drowning. At the scene’s apex, she confesses, “I didn’t want her to be born, “ of the baby she carried which was delivered stillborn.
So not only does Roma have a narrative which doesn’t feature a Protagonist with a conscious goal they are trying to attain, it has the opposite: a Protagonist who does not want something to happen.
And yet… Roma works as a story and as cinema.
I propose we consider this question as we go through this week’s analysis starting tomorrow with Plot.