Movie Review: ‘Roma’

Plot: Set in 1970 Mexico City, director Alfonso Cuaron’s latest work is an intimate look at a year in the life of maid Cleo (Yalitza Aparicio) and her relationship with the upper class family she works for.

Review: So here’s the thing about Roma. It’s one of those films that exemplifies my complicated relationship with film scores. I know that some people no matter what, will bypass this review and just skip to the end to see what score I gave Roma. It’s disappointing and indicative of a film society that thinks Rotten Tomatoes and MetaCritic are the end all be all in whether or not you should see a film. All of this is just preamble to say that I understand why Roma is being hailed as a masterpiece, but it’s a film that I appreciate more than I necessarily like. And therein lies the problem. People will assume based on my score that I didn’t care for the film which is far from the case. Cuaron’s Roma is an important film, one that I would urge people to see regardless of the score I give it.

Being a filmmaker working for Netflix can often be a blessing or a curse. Too much creative control can generate brilliant works like Mudbound or self-indulgent disasters like Mute. Thankfully, Roma falls in to the former category. Director Alfonso Cuaron’s (Gravity) latest semi-autobiographical work is a true labor of love. Every shot, every moment (including Cuaron’s hallmark long shots) possesses the care and consideration of a sculptor delicately chipping away at the rough edges. The result is a stripped down, bare bones slice of life film that I’m sure will resonate with many, if it didn’t necessarily with me.

Roma carries with it an austere quality, right down to its black and white rendering and lack of score. Indeed the family Cleo works for doesn’t even have a last name giving the film an “everyperson” quality in line with Frank Capra. Cuaron’s script however isn’t necessarily compelling, and in fact can be downright boring, especially in the first act. Then again the film focuses mainly on the day-to-day life of a simple maid not necessarily the most enthralling vocation. However, it does make a surprisingly violent act in the second half of Roma carry that much more of an impact.

Cleo is played by newcomer Yalitza Aparicio, a first time actress with no formal training. Given that fact it’s remarkable that Aparicio fairs as well as she does. While I wouldn’t call her performance stunning or breathtaking by any sense of the word, Aparicio’s work possesses a workmanlike quality to it. It isn’t the nuanced and energetic performance of say Lady Gaga in A Star Is Born, but moreso a stripped down and open work that inspires empathy. From cleaning up dog poop, to an unwanted pregnancy, to an unexpected act of heroism in the final moments, Roma is very much Cleo’s journey and one I admired even if I always didn’t connect with.

From a cinematic standpoint, Roma is a true Master’s class in how to make a film. Through Roma we see a filmmaker in complete control of his craft. The cinematography (something Cuaron did himself) is nothing short of breathtaking and Cuaron’s direction is flawless. I greatly admired the editing in Roma as well, something Cuaron contributes to along with co-editor Adam Gough. Even if you aren’t a fan of the story, believe me there are certain shots and moments that will stay with you long after the credits have rolled. Roma will be a movie taught in film schools for generations to come. For a director who has given the world classics like Y Tu Mama Tambien and Children of Men, Roma is truly Cuaron’s crowning achievement. Even if he never makes a film again his legacy in the annals of cinema will forever be secure.

However, in spite of all the factors that make Roma an important and memorable film, it isn’t something I really connected with. As I said before, Roma is a film I appreciate rather than like. Roma certainly deserves all the accolades and attention it is receiving. However, I can’t say this is a film I will revisit over and over again as the years go by.

My rating System:

0-1 God Awful Blind Yourself With Acid Bad
2 Straight Garbage
3 Bad
4 Sub Par
5 Average
6 Ok
7 Good
8 Very Good
9 Great
10 A Must See

Roma: 7/10

You can follow me on Twitter at @DarthGandalf1