Monday, December 10, 2018

Roma - Review

Every single year in cinema produces films that qualify as great or remarkable for the craft, performances, or story contained within, and sometimes all three. However, very rarely does the term masterpiece emerge as the descriptor for a film this early into its life. What Alfonso Cuarón does with his newest film is all of those things and more, making a solid case for that elusive title of masterpiece.

The film follows Cleo (Yalitza Aparicio), a young domestic worker for a family in the middle-class neighborhood of Roma in Mexico City. Director Alfonso Cuarón draws on his own childhood to create a portrait of domestic strife and social hierarchy amidst political turmoil of the 1970s.

To call Roma a daunting watch would be an understatement. While releasing on Netflix, a service that everyone and their mother uses to binge watch old sitcoms and subpar original series, Roma is just about the furthest thing from typical offerings from the streaming company. Shot in black and white and full of mesmerizing long-shots and gentle pans, the film often mimics a painting or diorama more so than the realistic takes that so many dramas strive for. 

Director Alfonso Cuarón packs an entire world into simple frames, illustrating the lives of so many without bringing them to the forefront. Lives play out as a backdrop to the story Cuarón is telling, each serving a piece of the larger whole in a time of turmoil. The characters of Roma are traipsing through their rather mundane lives, full of personal conflicts and choices, while the world around them becomes increasingly chaotic.

The emotional core of the film, despite the expert craftsmanship of Cuarón, relies on the work of newcomer Yalitiza Aparicio. Her performance is extremely subdued, bringing life into the reserved and gentle Cleo like few performers can. There are no sweeping declarations or big monologues for Aparicio to chew on, her story is told through the quiet moments and the minute details that Cuarón and Aparicio bring to the film, and it’s all the better because of it.

Cuarón has crafted something truly marvelous with Roma. From top to bottom, each choice is deliberately made to showcase the intimate lives of the characters he has so eloquently put on screen. From the trials of an unplanned pregnancy to abandonment by those you may need the most to a near traumatic incident that results in one of the most moving scenes of 2018, Cuarón remains delicate in his direction, never veering from the understated silence of his vision.

Roma features some of the best filmmaking in recent memory, from the technical feats that Cuarón accomplishes in cinematography and editing, to the deliberate choices in the performances and the lack of a score that lets the atmosphere speak for itself. Though not an easy task due to Netflix’s limited release of the film, everyone interested should find the biggest screen possible to see it, it can only enhance the experience on the whole. Prepare to hear more and more on this film as awards season progresses and it makes its play for the top prize. With Roma, its artistry is unquestionable, its emotions palpable, and its title of masterpiece deserved. 

ROMA releases in select cinemas on December 14th for a limited time.

ROMA comes to NETFLIX on December 14th.

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