Alfonso Cuarón is an auteur with the films he creates but that has never been more true than with his latest and most personal project, Roma. In 2013, Cuarón’s previous project Gravity took the cinematic world by storm earning ten Oscar nominations. Now five years later he has created a film arguably more personal to him than any filmmaker that has come before him. One film about being stranded in space, the other chronicling a year in the life of a middle-class family in early 1970’s Mexico City, both equally captivating in their own unique way. Both prime examples of this man’s immeasurable talents.
I have to be honest here and admit that my interest in seeing this film was almost nonexistent. Any interest I had came from Cuarón being in the director’s chair knowing what he’s capable of creating. After I was made aware that I would only have one opportunity to see the film before end of the year voting I decided to give it a chance. Like I said I was well aware of Cuarón’s abilities so I figured if anyone could make such an innocuous premise standout it would be him. I prepared for something not quite my thing and ended up being witness to something truly profound and strangely familiar despite my childhood being almost nothing like the one depicted on screen.
While his experiences are of course his own it’s in the intricate, intimate details that a relatability begins to emerge. The way the children interact with one another, the way they act with the parents, with adults in general is still as true today as it was in the 1970’s. Beyond this is a story of what stressors can emerge when raising a family, especially if that family isn’t yours. Then of course this scenario would naturally bring about its own problems unique to the situation; complications such as trying to find the balance between a personal and professional approach to helping an employer raise their family. Where does one draw the line when it’s simply not your family? As Cleo finds the equality between professional and personal she begins to wonder where her own life is heading and what it could look like even in the very near future. She is the lifeblood for a family that also struggles finding the line with their beloved caretaker.
If an artist of paint and canvas uses a brush to create their truth then Cuarón uses the visuals of cinema to breathe honest, mesmerizing life into a bygone era, in a land often forgetful of its own people. While most productions utilize a cinematographer separate from the director, Cuarón takes ahold of the visuals in every capacity. Since so much of the setting, from clothing to cars to the everyday sights and sounds of early 1970’s Mexico City was created from his own memory it makes sense for director and cinematographer to be one and the same. Through great effort and outreach to those that helped raise him, Cuarón has recreated his childhood with such detail and confident realization that every frame is a work of art. This is as close to immaculate visual storytelling that has ever been and while an at home experience of the film will suffice, the big screen allows the film to envelope, to immerse us in a world most alive have never experienced. I cannot stress how moved I was as the story played out before me. Even in a language I do not speak, spoken in a land I have never been, in a time long before my birth I was transported as if I never left, never mind never having been in the first place.
Touted as an “artful love letter to the women who raised him” Roma is a moving, modest look to the past of those that raised their youth during a time of “domestic strife and social hierarchy amidst Mexico’s political turmoil of the 1970’s.” It is at times moments as innocent as putting a child to bed and at times as life altering as the Corpus Christi Massacre where a student demonstration turned deadly ending with almost 120 people brutally killed in a clash with Los Halcones (the Hawks), a government-supported paramilitary group.
No matter the scene, however pure or savage the film is all about the honesty of that moment in every sense. From set dressing to costume design to the very look of the cast themselves, Alfonso and his team set out to make a completely accurate (to his memory) depiction of his homeland. This meant casting people who not only spoke the language of his childhood but greatly resembled the men and women who helped shape him. He recreated the home he grew up in, from the colors of the tiles on the floor to the furniture that turned a house into a home. Even though the final product is black and white, texture is still very important and so detail in every regard is still just as important as a film in full, vibrant color. Since Roma is in black and white every other aspect must come to life in a convincing command of the screen making the audience carry on without any doubt of the film’s authenticity.
This is a film that emits beauty in so many forms. The visual prowess of Cuarón comes into play for every single frame. Through his devotion to an honest story of what he experienced as a boy in a district of Mexico City known as Roma, or La Roma settled in the Cuauhtémoc borough, the story of his youth, from the perspective of his closest most loved female companions comes to life as if it were a documentary capturing 1970’s Mexico City in present day. His care and love of this story is palpable and shines through in a way that is nothing short of pure, enchanted cinematic perfection.
Roma is a slow but purposeful story of growing up and what the effects of an ever changing world can have on those still trying to understand what consciousness really means. Even if that’s the adults who pretend they’ve got everything in order. It ends as simply as it begins, with life moving forward, with individual stories going in different directions and at any given moment clashing together again as it does in everyday life. Roma is nothing more than life in all its beautiful imperfections.
Rated R For: graphic nudity, some disturbing images, and language
Runtime: 135 minutes
After Credits Scene: No
Starring: Yalitza Aparicio, Marina de Tavira, Nancy García García, Verónica García
Directed By: Alfonso Cuarón
Out of 5 Nerdskulls
Story: 5/ Acting: 5/ Directing: 5/ Visuals: 5
OVERALL: 5 Nerdskulls
Buy to Own: Yes. Streaming on Netflix, December 14, 2018.
Check out the trailer below:
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