Director: Alfonso Cuarón
Starring: Yalitza Aparicio, Marina de Tavira, Diego Cortina Autrey, Carlos Peralta, Marco Graf, Daniela Demesa, Nancy García García
Runtime: 135 minutes
Alfonso Cuarón has made quite a name for himself in cinema and is now a director that can bring in viewers on his name alone. That being said, I don’t think he is using or abusing that following. Y Tu Mamá También is a movie that surprisingly crossed over into America despite it being a foreign language film. The accolades he received for Children of Men and Gravity were well deserved. Naturally, many of us were waiting for his next work, and he has gone back to his Mexican roots for Roma.
The plot of Roma is easy to sum up since it features mostly mundane daily tasks and seldom elevates to actual drama. We follow a maid of a well-to-do family in 1970 and 1971 who is dealing with her strife when she gets pregnant. During this time, the family is secretly going through their own troubles. In the background, El Halconazo (or the Corpus Christi massacre) takes place along with the other political unrest. El Halconazo is one of the most interesting parts of the film and does require some additional research since the movie explains nothing to the viewers. This brings me to the most glaring issue with Roma, which is a personal story for Cuarón and other people who lived in Mexico City during this period, but I don’t see how the common viewer can connect with this film. I believe he made the film he wanted to make, but it was created from ninety percent of his memory of his days during this stretch of time. It is deeply personal to him, and he made a beautiful film, but I don’t know who else this movie is for. The script is in Spanish and Mixtec, and I didn’t feel like it translated to English that well. There was not a lot of emotional moments for me even when I knew that’s what the intent was. I can’t fault Cuarón for making this film, because I believe to him this is his highest achievement in film-making.
Interestingly, this is his first feature film as a cinematographer. I am making a note of this because this has got to be the best looking movie I have seen this year. His use of black and white was such a good move because it matches the look and feel of this time and place. Nearly every frame of this movie is perfect and should not be changed. Cuarón has clearly learned from Emmanuel Lubezki who was director of photography on Gravity and Children of Men. Roma shows that he doesn’t need anyone to fill that role because he is on par with any other cinematographer in the business. From one-takes to great dolly shots to use of reflections, Cuarón is putting on a show for the viewer.
While Roma is hard to recommend to the American audience, I can’t recommend it enough for the visual experience and direction on display. I know that sounds contradictory, but this isn’t your ordinary movie. It is worth a watch for a discussion. I feel he accurately portrayed the period and this will resonate with people, but it is worth the runtime to see what Alfonso Cuarón can accomplish in a black and white palette. A lot of people will see this because of his name and don’t let this review stop you. Lovers of film and film-making will find a treat here.
A lot of people will see this because of Alfonso Cuarón's name and don’t let this review stop you. Lovers of film and film-making will find a treat here. Direction and cinematography are off the charts.