Behold the meditative beauty of Roma
Roma is a critically-acclaimed, award-winning and sprawling social drama from Alfonso Cuarón, who won the Oscar for Best Director in 2019.
Cuarón is the man behind Children of Men and Gravity, a filmmaker who is constantly pushing the limits in terms of what is achievable on film. Roma is no different, delivering his most personal story yet in black-and-white from the streets of the Colonia Roma neighbourhood in Mexico City.
We journey with Cleo, a maid, who witnesses the gradual transformation of her employer’s household after a father’s “business trip” to Quebec turns into a permanent vacation. Coming to terms with her lot in life and overcoming personal struggles, she wrestles for meaning against the backdrop of a tense political climate in Mexico.
Make no mistake, this is arthouse
Starting with the opening credits, as soapy water is swished over a floor into a drain, you know Roma is going to be something special. Dealing with the hard edges of life through the lens of a humble maid, it’s one of those otherworldly films that gently tugs at your soul. While the two-hour-plus running time can be felt, the quality of the drama’s ingredients keep you invested.
A feast for the eyes
Adding to this, Roma is a visual masterpiece. Exquisite, poetic and detailed, Cuarón captures the light, texture and mood of each black-and-white moment. He addresses the film with sweeping brush strokes, crafting scenes on an epic scale without losing the fly-on-the-wall sense of intimacy. Beautiful composition and brilliant staging help turn each finely calibrated frame into a photographic artwork. Gliding from household chores to city riots, Roma is a rare cinematic experience… operating as if a forgotten classic.
New faces and new places
Great casting and naturalistic performances give the social drama an earnest, realistic and immersive feel. Surprisingly, the film serves as a debut for most of the cast, including Roma’s lead, Cleo, played by Yalitza Aparicio. This is just a testament to Cuarón’s directorial talents, drawing solid and well-balanced performances from a large ensemble of first-timers to make them look comfortable opposite the experienced Marina de Tavira.
Cleo is blown in every direction as hints of story build to some heartbreaking revelations.
The slow immersion and lifelike pacing give characters time to find their place in the story. As an ensemble drama, the narrative is overarching, preventing us from getting too close to any of the characters, typically watching from a third-person perspective.
Roma won two Golden Globes and Alfonso Cuarón won the Oscar for Best Director at the 91st Academy Awards. Cuarón’s technical achievements were acknowledged in Gravity, the breathtakingly beautiful social realism and drama in Roma recalls the old masters, and he deserves the acclaim.