There is no doubt in anyone’s mind that Alfonso Cuarón is an incredibly talented filmmaker that creates incredible cinema. Roma, a film that he wrote, directed, produced, co-edited, and co-photographed premiered at Venice to much praise. The film follows a maid and nanny, Cleo (Yalitza Aparicio), who works for a husband and wife with three boys and a girl. When the husband leaves his wife, Sofia (Marina de Tavira), the two women must make it through some trying times while managing to keep things together for the children.
It is very apparent that the film is extremely personal for Cuarón, as each frame is shot with such purpose and intensity, that you have to take notice. Cuarón’s skill as a filmmaker is undeniable. While I appreciate that he was crafting a personal and particular film in which Mexico City is intended to be as much a part of the story as the characters, I felt that is where the film suffered. The beginning of the film where we establish the relationships, characters, and setting feel very long and takes a long time to get to the crux of the film. While you could easily take any given scene from the film and appreciate it for the true art that it is, the women are the pure heart and soul of this film.
The way that Cuarón paints Sofia and Cleo is done with such care. There is a scene after her husband left, in which Sofia says to Cleo something along the lines of “we are women, we are alone.” This gets to the heart of the film, which is the relationship between women and the solidarity they have with one another when faced with adversity and their incredible strength. Despite their different social and economic classes, the women are both faced with being alone and managing in the world. The women in this film are phenomenal. It is almost impossible to believe that it is the acting debut for Yalitza Aparicio. She is a natural talent and is mesmerizing to watch on screen. Marina de Tavira is captivating as well, and the women have perfect chemistry together.
Cuarón pays particular attention to detail and the framing of every shot in the film. The black and white works to accentuate the cleanliness of the shots and images in the movie while adding a classic atmosphere. Cuarón’s masterful artistry is what makes Roma personal, unique, and more visually striking than any film you’ve seen in quite some time. Despite the overly long and uneventful first half of the film, Roma is fantastic filmmaking from a director with vision like no other.