How the Mexican film Roma used nostalgia to grip its audience.

Last updated on:

Feb 14, 2023 | Branding, Culture

Nostalgia is a powerful emotion that can evoke positive feelings and memories from our past. Brands often use nostalgia as a selling point because it can create a strong emotional connection between consumers and their products or services.

Nostalgia smiles in the mundane details.

Alfonso Cuarón’s 2018 film Roma is a nostalgic portrayal of 1970s Mexico City as seen through the eyes of an indigenous domestic worker named Cleo. The film effectively utilizes nostalgic elements to connect with audiences on an emotional level.

One way Roma evokes nostalgia is through its loving recreation of 1970s Mexico City. The film is shot in black-and-white which immediately gives it a timeless, nostalgic aesthetic. Iconic locations like the Plaza de las Tres Culturas and the Francesco I. Madero avenue immerse viewers in the city during this era. Everyday street scenes featuring classic cars, telephone booths, and record stores feel plucked straight from the past. The meticulous art direction and production design invite audiences to feel transported back to their own memories or imagined ideas of 1970s Mexico.

The focus on quotidian domestic life also taps into nostalgia. Much of the film simply follows Cleo going about her daily routines – cleaning, running errands, and taking care of the children. These mundane activities trigger nostalgia for the simple pleasures of everyday life. The absence of dramatic plot points causes audiences to find meaning in small moments, like Cleo washing clothes or driving the kids to school. Roma revels in the ordinary in a way that feels nostalgic.

Cleo’s relationship with the children she cares for also utilizes nostalgia. Her close bond with them and their innocent adventures together conjure up idealized memories of childhood. Cleo represents a nurturing, protective parental figure that audience members may nostalgically associate with their own upbringing. Scenes of her playing monster with the kids or singing lullabies touch on almost universal feelings of childhood nostalgia.

By portraying the political and social upheavals of 1970s Mexico City through Cleo’s apolitical perspective, Roma also elicits nostalgia for less complicated times. Cleo experiences events like the Corpus Christi massacre as bewildering disruptions to her routine, not as politically charged incidents. This apolitical point of view makes audiences long nostalgically for the days before they understood the complexities of issues like class struggle and oppression.

The film’s concluding scenes of Cleo in labor and on the beach with the children use strong visual nostalgic signifiers. The hospital scene recalls the 1970s through its medical equipment and Cleo’s floral housecoat. The closing shot of the ocean is an iconic visual image widely associated with nostalgic reminiscence. These strong visuals cue the audience to feel nostalgic themselves.

By using finely observed period details, focus on quotidian routine, emphasis on childhood, apolitical perspectives, and visual nostalgic signifiers, Roma immerses audiences in 1970s Mexico City in a way that powerfully taps into nostalgic emotions. Alfonso Cuarón harnesses viewers’ collective nostalgia as a means of connecting deeply with the story of Cleo and her world. Roma stands as an exemplary work of nostalgic filmmaking done right.

Responding to brands that use nostalgia as a selling point is often rooted in our emotional connections to the past and the positive feelings that those memories evoke.

Tap into the simple pleasures of your audience’s daily life.

When brands use nostalgia as a selling point, they are essentially leveraging the emotional attachment that people have to a particular time, place, or experience. By evoking positive memories of the past, brands can create a sense of familiarity and comfort, which can make their products or services more appealing to consumers.

In addition, nostalgia can be a way for people to reconnect with their past and their personal identity. By consuming products that remind them of happy memories, people can feel a sense of continuity and coherence in their lives. This can be especially important during times of change or uncertainty, when people may be looking for ways to feel grounded and secure.

Overall, nostalgia can be a powerful marketing tool because it taps into people’s emotional connections and creates a sense of familiarity, comfort, and identity. When brands are able to create this kind of emotional connection with their audience, they can create a loyal customer base that is more likely to choose their products or services over those of their competitors.


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