Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Roma (2018) - Movie Review

The Movie: Roma

The Director: Alfonso Cuarón

The Cast: Yalitza Aparicio, Marina de Tavira, Diego Cortina Autrey, Nancy García García, Verónica García, Fernando Grediaga, Jorge Antonio Guerrero

The Story: A story that chronicles a year in the life of a middle-class family's maid in Mexico City in the early 1970s.

The Review:
Alfonso Cuarón has made some pretty spectacular movies and he is an expert at executing the single take shot with prime examples being his work in the science fiction epics Children of Men and Gravity. Having mastered high end films that have large production values with big name stars, I was pretty excited to see what the director could do with material that was nowhere near mainstream and much more personal than anything he'd done before. Of course, he crushed it and came away with what some will consider to be the best film of the year.

The director, who also wrote, filmed, and produced the movie, focuses on a story telling style that is subtle and deliberate in it's pacing and yet is at times jarring and stunningly passionate. I love how he lets the camera linger on moments and follows characters around with minimal cuts allowing the viewer to be present and absorb everything that is put on screen instead of trying to keep up with a constant stream of cuts, edits, and angles. I also feel like the choice of presenting the movie in black and white works on many levels as it firmly places the story in it's time period of the early 70's and keeps visual distractions to a minimum.

Cuarón dedicated this film to his nanny, his mother, and his grandmother and it was inspired by his own childhood so you know there is going to be a lot of emotion and in depth story telling. He filmed on locations where events took place from his childhood. His family even contributed objects they have kept over the years and the director placed them in the movie as they were during his childhood.
All of this creates a level of authenticity and intimacy rarely seen in today's cinema.

The primary character of Cleo is played by newcomer Yalitza Aparicio who Cuarón said was destined to play the role and he knew she would be Cleo the moment they first met. Aparicio is such a delight to watch on screen as she completely embodies the character and inhabits each moment as if it was her own life being displayed on screen. The entire cast from top to bottom does a fantastic job of reliving these moments for the director who is very well known for his preparation around every detail from intimate conversations to large scale set pieces filled with extras.

I will say this about the movie. From a surface level story telling perspective, the whole thing can come across as a bit dull and mundane, especially if you are not able to engage with the characters, but if you allow yourself to be immersed deep into Cuarón's world and pay attention to everything he is trying to convey, you will be blown away by the powerful messaging and layers of depth he so carefully installs into each and every moment.

The Verdict:
Roma is an achievement in film making. It is a beautifully crafted bit of cinema that will be used as a template by aspiring film makers for years to come. Start clearing off space, the trophies and awards will be rolling in by the truckload. Roma is a Netflix production so it is available on the streaming service but please see it on a movie theater screen, it would be a shame to limit the visuals and artistry to a television screen.

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