ROMA - 2018
Director(s): Alfonso Cuarón
Writer(s): Alfonso Cuarón
Cinematography by: Alfonso Cuarón
Editor(s): Alfonso Cuarón and Adam Gough
Cast: Yalitza Aparicio, Marina de Tavira, Carlos Peralta, Marco Graf, Nancy García García, Verónica García and Jorge Antonio Guerrero
Alfonso Cuarón is not what I would call a household name, yet I know that name means something different depending on your introduction to his filmography. He could be the innocence of childhood and hope represented in A Little Princess or the boldness of sexuality and freedom of Y Tu Mamá También. Maybe he is the man that took you through two intense journeys of survival in the face of certain demise, Children of Men and Gravity. Or simply he is the man that pushed Harry Potter into the dark adult tones that defined the latter part of the series, however you see him you cannot deny the immense talent and versatility the man possesses behind the camera. So, when Netflix announced that they were releasing his new venture, you can understand my excitement. Let's talk about it.
The story takes place in 1970's Colonia Roma, a neighborhood of Mexico City. We follow Cleo (Aparicio), a maid in the household of Sofia, her husband Antonio and their four young kids. Cleo's journey will consist of an unplanned pregnancy, riots in the streets, forest fires, and the up and downs of the relationship of her employers. All of these elements may seem random when laid out in this summary, but they paint a bittersweet picture of a life many would overlook or not care for, the "help". Cleo puts all her pain, troubles, and worries to the side and focuses of the kids and the problems of her employer, help selflessness in the face of what can be argued as unfair are what sets her apart from the ugliness that surrounds her throughout the film. Outside of the dialogue, the script stands out from the many vignettes that any other director would kill to have, and here Cuarón effortlessly sprinkles them tying together Cleo's journey.
Quick note: the black and white cinematography is beautiful to look act, but the way they tied the opening scene, water splashing towards a drain, and the climax scene of the water in the beach was just masterful.
Cuarón's long takes are something to envy, and the riot scene or the forest fire of Roma rival his claim to fame of the car chase in Children of Men. His camera movement feel like poetry as not a single shot felt out of place. The riot scene's payoff is something that is stuck in my head, especially with the sequences that follow beg Cuarón to cut away. The cinematic poetry displayed is enthralling and engaging grasping your attention from beginning to end. I was just in awe of how beautiful the movie was, despite all the horror shown in it, a testament to the masterful touch of Cuarón.
ROMA is a testament to Cuarón's talent, both in writing and directing as he brought incredible performances from relatively unknown actors and crafted multiple long sequences that will be studied and dissected for years to come. He also served as his own cinematographer and editor, now he is just showing off. The story feels like a rollercoaster that ends in a bittersweet note of love and perseverance that distinguish the women of the film. Do yourself a favor and watch this masterpiece, you will be better for it. Cuarón is why I love movies.
ROMA is currently playing in theaters, and on Netflix. Watch it.
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