‘Roma’ Will Move You At Its Own Pace

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‘Roma’ Will Move You At Its Own Pace

Jack Julow, Writer

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Alfonso Cuarón’s (Gravity) latest feature film debuted on Netflix last month to much acclaim. Ever since its arrival on the streaming platform, Roma repeatedly appears in the lists of nominations, while securing many wins in top categories of cinematography and directing. I recently watched the film on Netflix and it easily ranks high on my list of top 2018 films as Cuarón expertly brings to life the story of Cleo, a poor maid, living in 1970s Mexico. Cuarón directs a slice of life story without color to showcase how black and white can still surprise you visually. If you have the time, watch Roma.

Roma opens up with Cleo (Yalitza Aparicio) tending to a complicated middle-class family in the Colonial Roma neighborhood of Mexico City. Its naturalistic storytelling continues as we witness Cleo share an intimate relationship with martial arts enthusiast Fermín, which results in an unexpected pregnancy. After Fermín finds out, he abandons her, and Cleo must bear the pregnancy alone while working for the shattering family. As Sofia (Marina de Tavira), the mother of the family, and Cleo must parent the children in the cheating father’s absence, the duo works hard to maintain the family unit and survive. As the film progresses, we see a family vacation, a bloody student riot, a traumatic birth scene, and a startling revelation at the beach that will leave you in tears.

I have seen many Oscar contenders, but Roma never plays like an Oscar-bait film. Cuarón shares a personal story in the most compassionate form that cinema can utilize. Like a wave, Roma washed over me, gluing me to my TV in pure awe. How I wish I could have had the privilege to see it in theaters, but unfortunately never will with Netflix’s same-day streaming demand. Cuarón’s gorgeous black and white cinematography creates a sense of nostalgia while also emphasizing the contrast between light and dark. The old photographic visuals of the film set a calm baseline as the story slowly crescendos into something shocking, yet heartbreakingly beautiful.

The performance by lead actress Yalitza Aparicio was genuinely moving as she both carries and heightens the film. While Cleo tends to leak away and stay quiet, Aparicio manages to make Cleo lovable and empathetic. Aparicio also has the hardest task of being the center of the beach scene, which she does perfectly in one singular long tracking shot. Meanwhile, Marina de Tavira gives the other knockout performance as Sofia as she has to play many complex emotions with her character. The actresses in the film make it succeed by bringing to life a kind of average script to something emotionally intense and deeply moving.

On the technical side, the cinematography must be praised once again. Roma is easily the most aesthetically pleasing film of all time. Cuarón’s directing style chooses to take its time with several long takes, especially with beach scene being the real stunner. The locations in the film are beautiful, which showcases Cuarón’s unique eye for natural beauty. However, Roma can feel a bit too long at times and cutting to the next scene would not have killed the pacing at all. Twenty minutes could’ve been easily shaved off the film that would not impact the film at all. Roma’s runtime stands as my only concern with the film. Nevertheless, Cuarón’s virtues easily distract from the film’s single vice with each scene being worthwhile, albeit unnecessary at times.

I highly recommend you take the time to watch Roma. Roma is currently streaming on Netflix.

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