This film chronicles a middle-class family in the 1970s who dwell in the Roma neighborhood, in Mexico City. The restrained film is mostly seen through the eyes of the family’s young housekeeper, Cleo who’s viewed as an extended member of the family and she is treated just like one of them.
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Cuarón has spoken of the guilt that likely steered the film’s focus towards Cleo and away from a more explicitly self-centred exercise in recreation. What might feel a little grating, I think, is the attempt to assuage post-hoc guilt through an auteurist reach that, by nature of its content, indulges self-reflexivity.
This may seem like an old argument about the relevance of auteur theory or the inevitability of artistic imitation. It is neither. Imitation or appropriation, like any other artistic approach, can and has been a valuable method of creative practice. Roma, on the other hand, does not acknowledge its debt to this practice, nor its debt to the dialectics of time.
[Cinema Monumental] Best film of the 21st century. Cleo/Señora Sofia are México, are air, are us all.// Roma as in romance. Roma as in ramo. Roma as in rombo. Roma as in rancune. Roma as in ricordo. Roma as in roçanço. Roma as in receei. Roma as in ri. Roma as in re-ri. Roma as in reli. Roma as in Recordar-te-ei. Roma as in (er)rei. Roma as in reset. Take care of Leonetta for me. (Capri c'est fini). Adeuses.
Cuaron's most personal film has resulted in a rich and emotional journey which may well be a career best to date. Shot in glorious 65mm b&w the film is a gorgeous achievement in both cinematography and editing well deserving its accolades. Casting is superb with both Aparicio and de Tavira impressing throughout. One of the year's best.
Cuaron films often have a problem in their telling, either being undershot in creativity (Y tu mama) or having auteuristic directing in a shallow and non-auteuristic story (CoM). You can call those films melodramatic, but I’d be damned to call them in-succinct or non-emotive. Roma is. Drifting without dramatics for an eternity trying to earn worth VIA the sum of its parts and not earning a heart in its style.
Cuarón is the modern master of mise-en-scène: there is precisely nothing in any frame of his films that he does not want you to see. As with Children of Men, it's the details in the background that inform the thrust of the narrative and characters. There are at least a dozen scenes of such breathtakingly beauty that I could scarcely believe what I was seeing.
A heartfelt and sad story that touches on many issues in Mexico during the 1970s, such as absent fathers, divorce, and political violence. Yet the audience only sees Cleo as the family's maid. Cleo's own indigenous life is missing. This would have deeply enriched the film.
Cuaron's use of the long take continues to conjure a world spreading out in all directions, and it allows the simplest of plots—an unwanted pregnancy, an imploding marriage—to find a social and personal context with fragments of lives criss-crossing through the frame. I've been waiting for this for a decade: a streaming service has produced the year's best film—and in doing so has proved how much we need theaters.
A film sure to elicit vastly different responses depending on one's degree of familiarity with the macro-events it depicts, Roma deploys a very real historical trauma as political correlative to personal and domestic crises. What remains? Exquisite compositions, extraordinary immersion--for which surround-sound trumps screen size--plus lots of beautiful, buzzing, human confusion, and, ok, a little facile symbolism.
Its unique way of placing history within the fray of superimposed private and public domains means that ROMA very much feels a bit like a companion piece to Cuarón's Y TU MAMÁ TAMBIÉN, but the filmmaking prowess on display here--especially as pertains to the use of non-actors and the control of crowds--is so copious as to have left me astounded. Features perhaps the most staggering traveling shot of all time.