Film Review & Podcast: “Roma”

Posted: December 16th, 2018 | Filed under: Cinema, Film Reviews Podcast | No Comments »

Having fashioned a few blockbusters — “Gravity,” one of the Harry Potter franchise & more — director Alfonso Cuarón earned the cred to pick and choose his projects.

He eschewed going big again.

As auteur Federico Fellini once did, hearkening back to distinct memories of his youth with “Amarcord,” Cuarón has fashioned an indelible masterpiece of a remembrance with “Roma,” titled for the middle class neighborhood of Mexico City in which the director was reared. This is significantly more intimate than the nostalgia of the Italian fantasist.

Cuarón has said that most every set piece is as he remembers the early 70s moments as a sub teen.

Yet what the director/ writer/ editor/ director of photography has done is not to center the film on himself but on the beloved domestic of his household, here named Cleo and poignantly portrayed by first time indigenous actor Yalitza Aparicio.

She serves a family of three boys, a girl, a maternal grandma, a mother, a dog, and a mostly absent father — the same as Cuarón’s — with much of the film taking place in a home, which is an exact recreation of that of the creator’s youth.

Shot in high definition black & white — a brilliant choice most always — the movie is both epic and very personal.

There is an emotionally wrenching scene depicting childbirth, and an equally unsettling one when Cleo goes to the countryside to find the father of her child. There is scene much resembling Renoir’s “Rules of the Game,” when the family visits a holiday party at a lux spot away from the city. There is a scene near the end, when the family is vacationing at the beach, which depicts allegorically but true to life, Cleo’s existence in microcosm.

But the one that most represents the director’s memories and focus is a simple one. The family is sitting around together, watching television. Cleo comes in to serve them snacks, and comfortably joins in, sitting beside the couch. At which time, assumably Cuarón as a kid, casually puts his arm around her.

Mexico, having been governed by a less than beneficent regime for decades, there is a political presence to the film. Military in the streets. A force of young and disenchanted training in the hinterlands. A student rebellion, quelled mercilessly. But it is presented — brilliantly so — only as context for the interactions of the family and those who serve them.

The scene when grandmother takes Cleo to buy a baby carriage will haunt you.

So you might wonder from this cursory representation how a two hour film about a Mexican servant might be the best film of the year, as many noteworthy critics have suggested?

To which I would reply: Simply watch the film now available on Netflix.

In its detail and vision and execution, it is filmmaking of the highest order. There is subtle craft in every shot and edit.

“Roma” is one arresting film.

Should you want to hear my voice say much the same as I’ve expressed here — OK there’s a bit more — listen up:

Audio MP3


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