With Roma, Alfonso Cuarón brings to life a beautiful story with stunning visuals that make it one of the best and most important films of the decade.
Set in the socially tense and culturally rich backdrop of 1970’s Mexico City, the film follows a tumulous year in the life of Cleo, a housekeeper of a middle-class family with problems of their own.
Sold as Cuarón’s “most personal project yet”, you never truly get it until you see it. He had already more than proved himself to be a technical master with films like “Gravity”, and the director finally lets go of some of past critiques of his work being “cold” (something I certainly don’t agree with) crafting a beautiful story that is sure to captivate most audiences.
From a technical standpoint, Cuarón utilizes to great effect what he learned from bigger projects, particularly implementing the incredible sound design Gravity had and was praised for and bringing it to life again in a much smaller film, making it feel much grander as a result. The cinematography, also handled this time by the Mexican director, has one of the most breathtaking sequences put in film, dare I say, ever. Whether it’s a shot of a man parking his car or two women running through the streets of Mexico City, Cuarón never misses the opportunity to elevate every shot. The gorgeous black and white images, paired with incredible production design, help to immerse you into the world he creates and invests you. This is all more apparent in the first hour, where Cuarón takes his time to slowly introduce the characters and fit you into the film.
Once the story gets going, even you haven’t realized, you’re heavily invested in the superbly written characters. Cleo, played by first-time actress Yalitza Aparicio in a star-making performance, turns out to have an amazing journey and arc as a character, being both heartbreaking and socially-conscious. What is perhaps most impressive about his storytelling this time around is the way he uses visuals to make biting commentary that is still relevant to this day. The beautiful contrasting images of two kids playing in astronaut costumes from two very different social classes is what made me realize that not only was Cuarón crafting a beautiful story on its own right, but he also had something to say, providing an important social critique that becomes more apparent as the film goes by, especially as he mixes some historical events into the film’s main storyline.
Yalitza Aparicio, as mentioned before, gives her all in a performance you’d be forgiven to think was made by a professional actress. Her raw, organic, and sometimes understated emotion always feel genuine and does a lot to make you care for Cleo. Marina de Tavira is not too far behind, delivering an excellent performance as a mother struggling to maintain order in her dysfunctional family.
In conclusion, Alfonso Cuarón crafts one of the best films of the decade with Roma, acting as a culmination to everything he has done before, and a highly emotional and artistic experience that is not only worth a look, but the much-deserved appreciation it needs.