Roma, written and directed by Alfonso Cuarón, is a delicately personal, astounding beautiful piece of cinema that I now think stands as the directors most wonderful work to grace the screen. I’ll admit, I’m a little intimidated by this review. Roma is a beautiful film that I just don’t think I have the ability to properly explore and talk about. I’m certainly excited to have the chance to think more about this film and get lost in all that Cuarón achieves… I just hope I can do it justice. Here we go.
In Roma, we spend a year in the life of Cleo – played by Yalitza Aparicio – who is a maid for a middle-class family living in Mexico City in the 1970’s. During this time, Cleo goes through many hardships, but always has the love of the family she tends to around her. It’s a beautifully simple journey with someone I instantly found myself caring for.
Roma has to be one of the most personal feeling films I can remember watching. It was truly like sitting alongside the director and peering through a generously cinematic window into his life… his past… his story. There are the meticulously designed locations that feel more than just created by an art department. They feel like the memories of a child translated over to their older self and then subsequently translated onto screen. And it’s in the delicately drifting camera pans that you get a true experience of what life is like in this house and what everyday life is like for the family inside.
Everyone in this film feels so alive. It didn’t feel like I was watching a film, rather it was like I was simply looking back through time into the actual lives of Cleo and the family she tended too. It was an experience I’ve only had with a few films. Often there is always that slight disconnect, where my brain knows it’s a film – it still cares deeply for the people on-screen and their story, but it also knows that it in its own way it isn’t real – but with Roma there were times where I fell into fully believing I was a part of Cleo’s story. I was a passenger in the corner who cared for them all, and that was a truly special experience to have.
And what made the film feel this way was how full of life it was. Even in the quietest, simplest of scenes, there was always an air of life within the film. A room that looked lived in, a daily routine that echoed the ones we know we all have and do, or a sweet little exchange between two characters that told so much about the relationship they have with one another. It’s a film where you look upon people and their stories – their lives – and believe it to be genuine; and the world Cuarón built around them only strengthens that.
It was this pure example of life that drew me in, and then it was the story of Cleo that held me there. That this is Yalitza Aparicio’s first ever time acting is incredible. She has such a control of the scene. Much of Aparicio’s time on-screen is of her going about Cleo’s life – often in a beautifully constructed wide shot – but the times when the camera would put all of its focus fully on her; there was a mastery of the scene and a performance that pulled on my heart that I found overwhelming. Deep within the kindness of Cleo was an undeniable sadness and Aparicio brought all that so clearly to the character and it was overwhelmingly emotional to be a part of.
But it isn’t just Cleo that draws you in – though she is certainly the primary focus – there is a layering of stories that exist in and around Cleo’s, and it’s through her that we intersect within them – sometimes only for a fleeting moment and then move on again – and in those little moments, we slowly begin to build a fuller picture of what is happening. It’s really clever on Cuarón’s’ part, because it means Cleo never disappears into a slew of other stories, rather she is the connecting point that gives us a glimpse into them all, making sure we never lose sight of her and her story. And just as clever is how all these stories aid one another, building out a larger story… a story that like everything in Roma shows a genuine look into life.
And this window into genuine life and Cleo’s story wouldn’t be what it is if it wasn’t for Alfonso Cuarón’s stunning cinematography and his incredibly constructed set pieces that seem impossible to plan out, choreograph and then shoot. This is without a doubt, Cuarón’s most beautiful film and what’s astounding to consider is that he himself was the cinematographer for the film. There were so many times where a shot would come before my eyes and I would just simply be in awe of it. Much like the rest of Roma, it could be the smallest simplest shot, or it could be an impossibly large set-piece filled with endless extras and a level of planning and execution that seems impossible, but whatever it was, the scene itself was always something stunning to look at – there were a number of times where I think I audibly exclaimed “wow”.
Alfonso Cuarón has a long and storied career and what’s clear from Roma is that there is no slowing down or diminishment in his work. In fact, it seems that with each new film, Cuarón gets better and better. Roma is without a doubt his best film to date. I found myself totally lost in its transfixing and poignant look at life, and it’s one of those films I know will stay with me.
There isn’t a doubt in my mind; I absolutely recommend, Roma! It’s beautiful in every way and it has to be seen… it has to be experienced. My only hope for it now, is that I get the chance to one day experience it on the big screen, rather than Netflix. To be enveloped by the majesty of this beautiful piece of cinema in an actual cinema would be a treat I would never want to pass on!
I’d love to know what you thought of Roma, so please sound off in the comments section down below with any feedback, opinions, etc, you may have. If you liked what you read, then I’ve great news, I have started my own podcast – ‘The Meandering Movie Podcast’ – where me and my buddy talk all things movies. Check us out on iTunes (https://apple.co/2FUkAhU ) and Soundcloud (https://bit.ly/2S4sMm6 ) and follow me/the podcast on Twitter – @GavinsRamblings & @MeanderingPod – for all the necessary updates. Lastly, I just want to say thank you to you for stopping by and I hope to see you return.