REVIEW: Roma (2018)

Oh but Roma is beautiful

Destined for an incredible Oscar haul come January, maybe, just maybe including Best Film but almost certainly best Foreign Language Film, Roma tells the tale of one family and their maids over the course of one year. Set in the 1970s Mexico of Cuarón’s youth, the film is beautifully crafted and artistically imagined.

Heartbreakingly intimate, the film explores the personal and tangled narratives of Cleo, a house maid, and Sofia, the matriarch of the family she works for. Woven together through the complex and muddied boundaries of the employer-employee relationship, Cleo and Sofia experience a wealth of emotional highs and lows during the course of the film against an aesthetically rich backdrop and the men that let them down so badly.

And as expected of a Cuarón film, this one is technically beyond reproach as well.

King of the epic long take, Roma opens with a beautiful 4.30 minute long-take of a tiled courtyard being washed. Just as virtually the whole of Gravity (yes, yes. I know… tech stuff etc), and in Children of Men (with that fab dystopic car stunt), Cuarón proves his chops behind the camera and in the edit suite – ably co-edited with Brit, Adam Gough. But here is where any similarity to his previous films ends.

Thanks to a kind of steady and roaming observational cinematography, Cuarón’s lens seems to respond to the world of Roma serenely, always there, ever patient.

Then there are the wonderful set pieces such as: the barely seen father’s painful arrival in his albatross of a car, the gigantic 70s Ford Galaxy; the roof-top laundry scene; the light-switching performance 360-degree panorama; the forest fire tableaux complete with New Year’s Eve revellers dressed to impress, glass in hand, throwing water at a rapidly out of control forest fire.

And it goes on, there’s the human cannon ball (yes, really) and the furniture store scene, which I cannot spoil for you, but which reminds me of that almighty car stunt long-take in Children of Men.

Top this off with the gorgeous cohesive devices like the running astronaut motif and the youngest member of the family sharing his past life experiences, and this is one film filled to the brim with the kind of moments that make life what it is – even if that does include the moment when you will believe a man is about to levitate before your eyes.

Undoubtedly in touching-distance of the lofty heights of auteur status, the one thing that sets Cuarón apart from his auteur brethren, is that it’s almost impossible to pin him down to one aesthetic – something which is as much to his credit as it is an important contribution to the art of film itself.

See it now – Roma is incredible.

Written by Niki Smith

© 2020 Super Ink Arts.