Written & Directed by: Alfonso Cuarón
Starring: Yalitza Aparicio, Marina de Tavira, Diego Cortina Autrey and Carlos Peralta
Run Time: 2h 15min
5 Frames out of 5
By: Shari K. Green
‘Roma’ is sensational. It’s also Mexico’s official submission for the category of ‘Best Foreign Language Film’ at the Academy Awards® for 2019. It’s also the kind of film that sneaks up and grabs you when you least expect it. It’s an unforgettable and breathtaking tale of love from the director, Alfonso Cuarón (Y Tu Mamá También, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Gravity), to his family’s domestic assistant, Libo, that the main character was based on. Working as his own cinematographer, Cuarón captured the beautiful imagery of his past that no one else could have had access to. He forces your imagination back in time to experience what he recalls and to walk through the life of someone he dearly cared for during some of her most blessed and most tragic moments.
Shot in black and white with perfect set and costume designs of the time period, you can’t help but feel as if you’ve stepped back in time with him.
Right away and throughout the movie, Cuarón uses long sequences to get you into the proper frame of mind to watch this ‘love letter’ to the woman who raised him. Cleo is this woman. She’s a very young woman who’s missing out on partying, creating her own dreams and having fun. Instead, she does everything around her employer’s house. What’s made most clear is that she takes care of the children as any mother would, quite honestly, disregarding her own personal experiences for theirs. She’s always scrubbing the floors, picking up dog waste, washing the dishes and doing the laundry as well as seeing to it that the children are woken up, fed and put to bed. She takes the responsibilities involving the children most serious. When they’re in her charge she handles them with love and showers them with attention. She does eventually find time to squeeze in a date or two during at which time she gets pregnant. When this happens, Cuarón shows genuine affection for her and the plight she next finds herself in, just as his family did back then. This leads to one of the most heartbreaking scenes and a strong message to women who feel that they’re alone in moments of crisis. Outside of this, something I found extremely provocative was Pepe throwing hints out of the possible existence of reincarnation. I liked that Cuarón threw it in but this was not the film to explore those thoughts.
‘Roma’ may move too slow for some but if you let go and let the director take you through these occurrences, truly live in the moments you’re witnessing on screen, you’ll be diverted from reality for a while and appreciate the efforts he took to pull you into his memories. Little things in the background of our daily lives are shown here from great perspective, especially when you consider it’s a child’s point of view. He took the time to show them, I hope you give him that time and watch with patience. This film is an artist painting a masterpiece to its most perfect. At times he concentrates on the mundane but while you watch you realize you’re watching life. It’s happening right before you and you can’t turn away. What makes it more special is his way of giving you so much in the most unconventional way he could have found.
Anyway, see this in a large theatre with spectacular sound to get the most out of it. Yalitza Aparicio’s performance of Cleo will move you more when you can feel what she’s going through as well as see it play out. I realize it’s being released on Netflix but do try and catch its theatrical run. I can’t say enough about it. ‘Roma’ is a beautiful film in every possible way and Cuarón was brave to have shot it the way he did with no score. When you think about it, do we have music following us everywhere we go? No. And neither does Cleo. That said, I hope Cuarón gets everything he deserves during Oscar season.
*In Phoenix, you can find ‘Roma’ at Harkins Camelview Fashion Square on 12/7 and it will be released globally on Netflix on 12/14 and expanded Theatrically.