The most personal project to date from director Alfonso Cuarón, Roma chronicles a turbulent year in the lives of a middle-class family in 1970’s Mexico City.
⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ½
After spiralling through space in Gravity and charting the collapse of society in Children of Men, Academy Award-winning filmmaker Alfonso Cuarón returns with something profoundly more intimate. Roma, which is presented in black and white and with English subtitles, is a ‘year in the life’ of Cleo (Yalitza Aparicio), a maid in the Mexico City household of Sofia (Marina de Tavira), Antonio (Fernando Grediaga) and their four young children.
The film follows Cleo and her fellow maid Adela (Nancy García García) as they care for the family, clean the house, cook meals and spend time with their boyfriends during their time off. However, this isn’t the idyllic slice of domestic bliss that it appears at first glance. As time wears on, we learn that Sofia and Antonio’s marriage is strained and that Cleo’s own relationship with her boyfriend Fermín (Jorge Antonio Guerrero) faces issues of its own.
If it wasn’t already apparent, Roma takes a fairly sedate and fluid approach to narrative. Cuarón takes his time to orient the viewer in the lives of the increasingly dysfunctional family, both in a physical sense, as he winds his way through their intricately detailed city abode, and also in an emotional sense, as he explores the fractures that exist in a familial setting.
The film doesn’t so much plot a story so much as it unfurls a journey before you, with time blurring as milestones like first dates and Christmases wash past. The overall effect is one of intense immersion with the family and its trials and tribulations. Come the end of the film, you feel as though you’ve been with them every step of the way for a year of their lives, and it’s an incredibly moving experience. The soaring highs and the crushing lows all flood back as you exit the theatre.
Visually Roma is a knockout, with so much detail and richness packed into every frame. Cuarón drops the viewer into the midst of 1970’s Mexico City, and all the smells, sights and sounds ooze from the screen and surround you. The black and white doesn’t rob the film of flavour at all; it serves to further place the viewer in the setting.
A poetic and personal project that explores life’s big moments as well as the little ones that link them together, Roma is unquestionably one of the best films of 2018. With so much to take in, Roma is like peering through a window into the past and someone else’s life – no detail or moment too small or insignificant.
Roma is screening in Perth for a limited time in the Cine Latino Film Festival (Dec 6-16)
Image courtesy of Netflix Australia