Yalitza Aparicio, Marina de Tavira, Dieo Cortina Autrey, Carlos Peralta, Nancy Garcia Garcia
FilmInk rates movies out of $20 — the score indicates the amount we believe a ticket to the movie to be worth
…a breath of fresh air, transporting the viewer to a land and a time that they would not ordinarily be privy to; through the lens of one of the world’s most gifted filmmakers, bringing empathy and joie de vivre that is impossible to experience in the disposable world of the streaming age.
Roma is a throwback to what is truly wonderful about cinema. And ironically, there was a great deal of doubt around the possibility of audiences being able to see it in a cinema. Thankfully, Netflix – who came onto the project in a similar way to the recent Cargo, whereby the film was already in production when the streaming giant bought it outright for the world – has beckoned and the experience is sublime.
Although it is never said in the film, ‘Roma’ refers to the Mexico City neighbourhood in which the film takes place. It’s also a cinematic reference point, with the work of the Italian neorealists and films such as Rossellini’s Rome, Open City (1945) informing every frame. Photographed in black and white by Cuaron (his first film since his shorts where he took on DOP duties), the story centres on Cleo, an indigenous maid to a middle-class family in the early 1970s. Through Cleo’s wide, open eyes we see the drama unfold in the family’s lives, her own, and more broadly, the country and its people. There’s change coming, signaled by the regular planes going through the sky.
Another cinematic reference point for Cuaron is the ‘women’s picture’, with the story focusing on the lives of the women in this world, and their unjust treatment at the hands of men. The period detail, too, is truly convincing, with the use of mostly wide shots transporting you right into the heart of this vibrant culture. The period recreation is reminiscent of the recent Australian film Ladies in Black, except here it is wholly successful. Aided by immersive sound design, and moments of relieving humour, you really are transported into this world, and go on the journey with Cleo throughout.
Cuaron has spoken about the film being highly biographical, but more than anything, this film is personal, and harks back to the work of great auteur filmmakers who, no matter what story they were telling, would include their identifiable concerns throughout. In the case of Roma, there are various references to his own previous films (Y Tu Mama Tambien, Children of Men and Gravity), to cinema and humanity which are also evident in his previous work.
At a time when the digital revolution has allowed filmmakers to iron out any true, subtle personality from their films (read: imperfection), and ironically here supported by a platform that is all about an algorithm, Roma arrives like a breath of fresh air, transporting the viewer to a land and a time that they would not ordinarily be privy to; through the lens of one of the world’s most gifted filmmakers, bringing empathy and a joie de vivre that is impossible to experience in the disposable world of the streaming age. It is ironic that this film will get less eyeballs on Netflix than junk such as The American Meme, however, we should be thankful that the continued dumbing down of the entertainment industry has somehow allowed a masterpiece such as Roma to be made as well.