Roma is an absolute masterpiece and is the best film of 2018, bar none. Cuarón’s masterful work of art receives a five-star review from me.
From the moment I saw the first frame, a shot looking down at floor tiles with water rushing past them as an airplane shines through from above, I knew that this was going to be a special picture. I believe Roma is the movie of the year. This black-and-white gem beautifully tells the story of a year in the life of a middle-class family in Mexico City in the early 1970s. Director Alfonso Cuarón’s (Y Tu Mamá También, Children of Men, and Gravity) passion project is vibrant and visually shines. It’s a powerful portrayal of love, hope, and family. A movie our country needs to see and embrace right now. While it’s distributed by Netflix, I highly recommend experiencing this tour de force on the big screen. A must-see movie, that’s also a humane love letter. Very rarely do I come across a film with this much realism and inner beauty. On screen, Roma is a film that blossoms right before your very eyes. I had the pleasure of seeing this gem at the St. Louis International Film Festival last month, and I am looking forward to seeing it again in theaters.
Our film centers around Cleo (a powerful Yalitza Aparicio), a young domestic worker for a family in the middle-class neighborhood of Roma in Mexico City. The film is inspired by the women who raised this gifted director, Cuarón’s vivid autobiography is a love letter and an emotional portrait of what it means to be family. Roma is a gorgeous look at life on a grand cinematic scale. Aparicio gives Cleo a sense of comfort and wonder as she deals with her own personal struggles on screen. It’s an intoxicating docudrama that will fully engulf its viewers right unto center stage. We zero in on the Colonia Roma neighborhood of Mexico City, where Cleo is a maid in the household of Sofia (a strong Marina de Tavira), whose household consists of her husband Antonio, their four young children (Toño, Paco, Sofi, and Pepe), Sofia's mother, Teresa, and another maid, Adela (an empathetic Nancy García). Cleo’s life revolves around cleaning, cooking, taking the kids to and from school, serving them meals, putting the kids to bed and waking them up.
In between these scenes, we witness a marriage on the brink of collapse through Sofia and Antonio. Shortly after, Antonio, a doctor, leaves for a conference in Quebec. Sadly, this is the last time his children will ever see him again, as he runs off with his mistress. Later, we see Cleo and Adele going to the movies with their boyfriends, Fermín and Ramón. Cuarón fills each of these scenes with authenticity and rich rewards. This film could go down as his magnum opus, filled with poetic and cinematic bliss. Halfway through the movie, Cleo realizes that she is pregnant and Fermín wants nothing to do with her and their child. His toxic masculinity rages on and unveils his arrogance. While Fermín decides to leave, Cleo is left continuing to take care of Sofia’s family and also preparing for her baby. We begin to closely follow Cleo and her journey for an entire year. Whether it’s traveling with the family to hacienda for New Year's or to the beaches at Tuxpan, we are with Cleo every step of the way.
What is so captivating about Roma is Cuarón’s ability to break through barriers of language, culture, and class. His masterclass soars to refreshing new heights for cinema and the world in general. This is a film that our country needs to embrace right now, as we witness this philosophical humanist love letter blossom frame-by-frame. Everything from the writing, directing, acting, camerawork, and cinematography is executed perfectly. I have already watched it once more since it was released on Netflix last Friday (the 14th), and will continue to watch it on a weekly bases throughout this awards season. The pleasure of this film is that it felt like a brand-new experience watching it the second time around. Spellbound, Roma will be hard to top for 2018 and has my vote to receive the highest honor of Best Picture at the Academy Awards next year.
Roma had its world premiere at the 75th Venice International Film, where it won the Golden Lion. Roma was also chosen by Time magazine and the New York Film Critics Circle as the best film of 2018, and by the National Board of Review as one of the top ten best films of 2018. It has received numerous awards thus far, including three Golden Globe nominations. Cuarón said: "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."
Aparicio shared her thoughts on the similarities between herself and Cleo. “My life was similar. We were both poor, and we both wanted to go to Mexico City to improve our family’s lives.” Her own mother worked as a nanny, just as Cleo does in the film. “She is still a domestic worker. When I was younger, I used to help her so she could finish earlier.” Aparicio's mother provided the inspiration for Cleo. “I wanted to be like my mum; as strong as her. She was my role model. The film is like a tribute to women in general – these invisible women are always there in the home, taking care of the children.” Roma is my favorite film of the year and is the best film of 2018, hands down. This beautiful black-and-white portrait of human life will strike you with heartbreak and awe. Roma is a turning point in cinematic history and will continue to shape the way we look and observe film. This is the reason why we go to the movies, to be mesmerized by enriching stories that will bring us closer together as human beings.
Roma is rated R (Restricted). For graphic nudity, some disturbing images, and language.