“Roma” stars Yalitza Aparicio, Marina de Tavira, Fernando Grediaga, Marco Graf, and Daniela Demesa. Released in theaters on November 21, 2018 and on Netflix on December 14, 2018, the film follows the life of a middle class family and its housekeeper in Mexico City.
The film is directed by Alfonso Cuarón, who also directed films such as “A Little Princess”, “Children of Men”, and “Gravity”. Netflix is continuing its strategy to release its movies in theaters before debuting on the streaming service, and it looks like it found a film that may get itself into the Oscar race this year. Serving as Cuarón’s first directorial effort in five years, this latest drama has so far received unanimous praise from critics and has earned three Golden Globe nominations, including Best Foreign Language Film, and knowing me, I always go for the ones that are nominated for the major awards. I don’t usually watch a lot of foreign language films because of time and money, but now thanks to the power of Netflix, I don’t have to worry about those things (although I still need to pay for Netflix). That’s right, this year I’m taking the chance to watch at least one of the nominees from the Best Foreign Language Film category. Luckily, I knew exactly what to watch.
Based on my research, the film’s story is based on the director’s upbringing in Mexico City, so it’s possible that it is considered to be his personal project. One of the main things you should know before going into this film is that it showcases the events that occurred in the early 1970s from the perspective of the middle-class family’s maid, Cleo (Aparicio). It also moves along at a pretty slow pace so that the audience can bask in the scenery and the emotions that the characters are going through. Unless you’re OK with slow-paced films, “Roma” will make you feel like you’re playing the “waiting game”, at least during the first 30 minutes. Afterwards, the film was able to provide a deep and effective portrayal of domestic life in the 70s in terms of the screenplay and Cuarón's direction. On a technical level, Cuarón delivered another piece of cinematic gold. Shot in black and white, Cuarón succeeds in manifesting the characters’ facial expressions and the film’s luxurious sets and landscapes as if I was in that world myself. The cinematography was gorgeous to look at and the editing was simply flawless from beginning to end. Newcomer Yalitza Aparicio did a great job with her performance as Cleo. Her role as a maid who’s going through a personal issue really moved me. She didn’t try so hard to make herself stand out. Instead, she provided a more serene and vulnerable performance that’s as heart-filled and caring as her character. This is something that I should keep an eye out on during the rest of the awards season. Another thing that I should add is that the film somehow explores the importance of family and the fact that they always comfort one another even through the darkest of times. That’s pretty much what I got out of the film. I could be wrong.
Overall, “Roma” may not be able to attract a lot of people due to its pacing, but for fans of cinematic art, this is a beautifully-shot portrait that’s deeply moving and quite investing. The cast was solid in their roles, especially Aparicio, the screenplay was relatable, and the cinematography was astounding. Although I think that “Gravity” is still my favorite film from Alfonso Cuarón, I managed to appreciate his latest film, both story-wise and technical-wise. I would recommend this one to anyone who enjoys films like this and to those who are fans of Cuarón’s earlier works.