ROMA – Cinematic Perfection


I had heard nothing but greatness about the upcoming release of Alfonso Cuarón’s ROMA. The synopsis read a little bland; a personal story of Cuarón’s childhood told in black and white. Ummmm. Not the most riveting. But the people had spoken, it was meant to be a masterpiece and so off I trotted.

ROMA is out now on limited release at a few arthouse cinemas around the country but is releasing on NETFLIX on December 14th. If you can somehow muster the energy and coins to get to a cinema I highly recommend it. The cinematography will win an Oscar and it deserves to be seen on the biggest screen you can find. Oh, and pack the tissues!

ROMA is rated M and runs for 135mins.


ROMA Yalitza Aparicio image
Yalitza Aparicio

BY JASON KING

ROMA SYNOPSIS:

ROMA follows Cleo (Yalitza Aparicio), a young domestic worker for a family in the middle-class neighborhood of Roma in Mexico City. Delivering an artful love letter to the women who raised him, Cuarón draws on his own childhood to create a vivid and emotional portrait of domestic strife and social hierarchy amidst political turmoil of the 1970s. 

In Alfonso Cuaróns own words;

“There are periods in history that scar societies and moments in life that transform us as individuals. Time and space constrain us, but they also define who we are, creating inexplicable bonds with others that flow with us at the same time and through the same places. Roma is an attempt to capture the memory of events that I experienced almost fifty years ago. It is an exploration of Mexico’s social hierarchy, where class and ethnicity have been perversely interwoven to this date and, above all, it’s an intimate portrait of the women who raised me in a recognition of love as a mystery that transcends space, memory and time.”


ROMA Yalitza Aparicio and Marco Graf image
Yalitza Aparicio and Marco Graf

Best film in the last decade!

ROMA is, in all honesty, probably the best movie released in the last decade. A movie that has stayed with me, rolling over and over in my empty brain-matter vortex since viewing it and I really want to go and see it again. Cuarón’s ROMA is a nostalgic love letter to his childhood and the women who raised him. It is told with a “year-in-the-life..” narrative and it never explains anything, you simply witness it. It reminded me of the Linklater movie BOYHOOD to some extent, it is mostly a historical retelling but the realism on-screen is palpable. You feel as if Cuarón visited the family every few weeks for a year but in reality he was there every day in his past.

They are a family you love and at times are disappointed in, you feel sorry for them and at times you feel angry with them, it’s reminiscent of a real family. Cleo (the nanny) is as part of the family as a blood member but at the same time is regularly reminded that she is lower class. ROMA reminds us that “the help” are as human as the upper class and have their own trials and tribulations to deal with as well as dealing with the ups and downs of their charges. 

Witnessing what Chloe goes through is heartfelt, gut wrenching and at times, wonderful. The family grow on you until you never want to let them go, you want to be there to help them experience their ups and downs.


ROMA Verónica García, Daniela Demesa, Marco Graf, Marina de Tavira, Diego Cortina Autrey and Carlos Peralta image
L – R: Verónica García, Daniela Demesa, Marco Graf, Marina de Tavira, Diego Cortina Autrey and Carlos Peralta

The little things always count….

It’s the little things that elevate ROMA to something so special. In a blockbuster they would be considered easter-eggs to references. In ROMA they are simply the tiny memories; the smells, the dogs barking, the shoe shining whistles (I had the paper boy whistle while growing up). These little items that to most will appear as inconsequential are what makes our memories whole. They set the tone for the life that goes on around us. 

The dog shit in the drive pissed me off but it holds powerful meaning in the film. The large oversized car being drove in to the carport with either momentous concentration or haphazard destruction hold more meaning. The crazy Mexican martial arts guy who pulls cars with his teeth, the daily brass band walking the streets, all more memories blended into Cuarón’s life. Even the planes flying overhead at periods through the film hold a significance to Cuarón and therefor make the movie that much more special.

Technical Perfection:

Technically ROMA is one of the best movies ever made. It is flawless in execution with each single frame being worthy of hanging on the wall. The digital black and white makes the film look like your own childhood photo albums have been reconditioned and further wraps it in nostalgia. Cuarón also manages to be the cinematographer of the film adding more personal touches. His use of the incredibly long slow-pan takes will blow your mind at their execution. They absorb you that much more into the scene, investing yourself at the life evolving around you.

There are three scenes in this movie that could be seen as too emotional to handle.  Some reviews have described them as “cruel but beautiful” cinema. They are wonderfully vibrant scenes of life that are filmed harrowingly. But it’s how they are filmed that is so powerful, they aren’t huge climactic scenes with a crescending score, in fact the movie has NO SCORE at all, they are simply other things that happen to the characters that we witness.

The hospital scene was shot in one take only using real hospital staff. The locations were all real places in Mexico and most of the furniture in the family home is all on loan from Cuarón’s relatives from around Mexico. 


ROMA Marco Graf, Daniela Demesa, Yalitza Aparicio, Marina de Tavira, Carlos Peralta and Diego Cortina Autrey image
L – R Marco Graf, Daniela Demesa, Yalitza Aparicio, Marina de Tavira, Carlos Peralta and Diego Cortina Autrey

The Performances Deserve Oscars:

Cuarón decided to employ mostly non-actors for the movie and to be frank, some give better performances than most of the Hollywood actors this year. Yalitza Aparicio has her debut acting role as Chloe, she gives an introverted performance that is as flawless as it is powerful. 

Marina de Tavira as Sofia, the matriarch of the family, is more known from an acting background in Mexico and delivers the strength of a mother in crisis. Her life parallels Chloe’s and it is interesting to see these two people, from completely different life-slices slowly converge.

The kids all give wonderful deliveries as siblings with Carlos Peralta and Marco Graf, as Paco and Pepe, getting the most screen-time. I think this comes down to their “cute factor” and situation. Pepe is the youngest and spends the most time with Chloe, and Paco was the most affected by his asshole father. As this is Cuarón’s telling of his life, I somehow feel that Paco was Cuarón but this is a guess.

IN CONCLUSION:

ROMA is the audience sitting down with Alfonso Cuarón’s mother and going through his family photo albums come to life. There are highs and there are lows but it is real, it is personal, and it is so heartfelt it hasn’t left me since viewing it. It has been submitted as Mexico’s entry for best foreign language film at the Oscars but ROMA deserves more, it deserves the Best Film for 2018/2019 Awards and no film has come close for Best Cinematography. A true masterpiece from an auteur. 




YOUR CRITIC:

Jason King owns, writes and edits Salty Popcorn and Spooning Australia. He is a movie, food, restaurant, wine, chocolate, bacon, burger and brussels sprouts addict. He is a member of the Australian Film Critics Association and has been in the Australian movie industry for 26yrs. Furthermore he loves watching people trip over and is Leonardo DiCaprio’s biggest fan. 

** Images used are courtesy of various sources on Google or direct from the distributor or publisher. Credit has been given to photographers where known – images will be removed on request.