Tony's Take

ROMA review

There Are Periods in History that Scar Societies and Moments in Life that Transform Us as Individuals

Alfonso Cuarón (“Gravity”, “Children of Men”, “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban”) is truly one of the greatest storytellers working today.  His latest offering, “Roma”, just might be his masterpiece.  Taking place in the early 1970’s Mexico City, a family of six navigate life in an upper class home.  With them, two employed domestic workers and a dog as well.  The film provides a unique, in-depth scope into all of their lives, but specifically Cleo (Yalitza Aparicio).  As the family is falling apart and the father has left them on their own, Cleo and fellow domestic worker Adela (Nancy García García) hold the family together, including Sra. Sofía (Marina de Tavira) who’s struck with sadness and her mother Sra. Teresa (Verónica García), who acts as a caregiver to her grandkids.  While taking care of her endless job responsibilities, Cleo is battling her own personal life as well.  A few months later, she ends up pregnant and the baby’s father abandons her.  Afraid of losing her job, she brings the news to Sra. Sofía and she is filled with joy!  The rest of Cuarón’s stunning film follows Cleo’s pregnancy and how she saved this middle class family’s life.

What Cuarón has created with “Roma” is nothing short of a masterpiece.  Shot entirely in black-and-white and spoken almost entirely in Spanish (with English subtitles), the film resonates with so much emotion and on a very personal level.  The scope of the film puts you right in the middle of the story.  The camera acts as your eyes, while the sound (masterfully mixed) surrounds your every thought and movement.  The film relies strongly on its mostly-novice cast and the results are better than anything that could have ever been hoped for.  It truly is incredible, the amount of raw emotion and feelings that the actors demand from you; and never does the fact that they’re speaking in Spanish get in the way.  There is no language barrier.  You feel for each of these humans on the screen.  You cry with them, you laugh with them, you feel their heartache, their sorrow.  Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of the film is the story behind it.  “Roma” is based entirely off Cuarón’s life and dedicated to his family’s domestic worker Liba.  He wanted to make sure he honored her story (which is why the focus is Cleo), right down to casting Aparicio who is from the same village and even shares a resemblances to her.  He even made renditions to make the family’s home look like his childhood home!  This adds a completely additional layer of the film’s resounding effect and one that was truly captivating for me.

“Roma” also represents a seismic shift on the way we watch and experience film as a medium.  As it is being released by Netflix (streaming on December 14th), the film will also be receiving a small, limited theatrical run so that Cuarón’s tale can be seen on the big screen; where it demands to be seen!  While streaming giants have slowly been gaining momentum and favor with award voters, “Roma” may just be the first film to crack the code and take Netflix to the big table, alongside the studio giants, and take home the biggest prizes this awards season.  While the film runs long (135 minutes), it patiently constructs its characters and story arc until it takes-off like a jet engine and relentlessly leaves you shaken.  “Roma” is a beautiful, powerful, and vibrant story of life, with stunning performances and an emotionally-raw story, shown on a glorious black-and-white canvas; it truly is one of, if not, the best film of 2018 and an absolute masterpiece!    


ROMA is rated R for graphic nudity, some disturbing images, and language, in theaters DECEMBER 14TH!

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