Quick Hit: Technically beautiful with a deep heart to match.
Alfonso Cuarón took the world by storm a few years ago with Gravity. He had been a successful director prior to that, with Y Tu Mamá También, Prisoner of Azkaban and Children of Men all on his resume. His long sweeping takes and beautiful cinematography are his trademarks, but he also is noted for giving human stories with a dark undertone. Roma is no different, but it may be his best.
Roma follows Cleo, a maid for a wealthy family in Mexico. But because the story must get conflict, she finds herself pregnant via a man who takes off after he hears the news. Along with that, there is a revolution brewing here, and the undertones of wrongness are all over the story.
The film brings all of Cuarón’s trademark filming techniques – whether long takes or sweeping camera movements that follow the mundane across the screen (the film opens as we watch Cleo clean the driveway/garage of the family) are still absolutely breathtaking at times. But he also has some new tricks, as Roma is entirely black and white, which gives a depth to the image that may not be there in color. Along with that, it makes the story feel deeper because there is less distraction from the dialogue (the film was also written by Cuarón).
The dialogue is rich and allows you to feel at home in the story. The camera accents that, and you soon feel as if you are simply watching a home video. One of my favorite moments early in the story is two girls doing their exercises, as they tease each other about all the food they ate, and joke about trying to keep quiet so that they don’t wake anyone. But Roma also has a dark side, that features the aforementioned revolution and the havoc the stress of something like this can play on both a pregnancy and a marriage. Make no mistake – there are moments in Roma that are surprising and others that are heartwarming, but there’s also some complete and total devastation that takes place. One scene in particular that is shot in a long take without emotion, allows you to complete focus on the acitng and it tears you heart apart.
A big part of this is Yalitza Aparicio in the role of Cleo. She never wavers in the role, instead presenting a solid front for all of us watching. Whether Cleo is cleaning a table, mourning a loss, or rescuing children, there is no moment where Aparicio doesn’t make Cleo an engaging character. Nearly (but not quite) matching her is Marina de Tavira, the mother in the home. Her role may not get nearly as much screen time, but she makes every ounce of it count and her performance draws you to it every time she’s on screen.
I thought that Roma was fantastic, but I’m also a person who doesn’t mind a black and white movie with subtitles. I fully admit that the movie won’t be for everyone, but for those that can get into it, you won’t be disappointed. I’m giving it an “A”.
For more on this film, check out IMDB.
"All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy"