Cuarón’s ‘Roma’ is a testament to life

Alfonso Cuarón’s recent film “Roma” is a visual masterpiece that will captivate the soul by its cinematic technique. 

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Few films captivate the soul as much as 2018’s “Roma” from Academy Award-winning director Alfonso Cuarón. He not only directed this cinematic masterpiece, but he also wrote, produced, edited and served as the cinematographer of the film. Based on his childhood experiences growing up in Roma — a suburb of Mexico City — the filmmaker has done something truly remarkable in that he has crafted a deeply intimate and personal film. It serves as a universal testament to humanity that everyone can relate to in some fashion. Simply put, “Roma” is the best film of 2018. 

“Roma” follows the story of a middle-class family in the early '70s. We follow the family’s housemaid, Cleo, a young woman lost and confused as to what exactly her place is in this world. Cleo is struggling with an unwanted pregnancy while the family she works for has lost the father after he left with his mistress. Cleo is treated at times as a member of the family, while at other times as a servant. The dynamic this young woman has with the family she works for grows and transforms into something deeply unique and beautiful, their shared pain bringing them all together. 

Photo by Carlos Somonte

Shot in gorgeous black and white that almost hurts to look at due to its rich beauty, every scene of this film is centered on the grasp of a gifted director. Each shot is arrested in an artistic vision with depth that can conquer the viewer’s eyes. Cuarón, who originally planned to have long-time collaborator and legendary cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki shoot the film, excels as a visionary artist who has a gifted eye for detail and beauty. 

You see and feel the work of a director constantly when viewing “Roma,” similar to films from talented directors Alejandro Gonzalez Innaritú (“The Revenant,” “Birdman”) and last year’s Academy Award-winning director Guillermo del Toro (“The Shape of Water,” “Pan’s Labyrinth”), who Cuarón is close friends with. Using pitch-perfect long takes at multiple points of the film, Cuarón focuses intimately on his subjects and allows us to witness the characters in their daily lives and emotional struggles. 

What compliments “Roma’s” visual sensations so beautifully is how moving it is. The character of Cleo is portrayed as an innocent soul, her anxiety about her lost place in a high-pressure society expressed perfectly by newcomer Yalitza Aparicio. It’s hard to think that an actress who delivers such a realistic portrayal of a deeply rich and complex human being has never acted before. Aparicio’s performance is truly contagious, her character impossible not to care for or relate to in some manner. It’s one of the best acting performances by any actor in 2018, rivaling anything that comes from any mainstream Hollywood actress.  

Alfonso Cuarón’s films have a pattern to them in that he incorporates water somehow. Whether it be the ending to “Children of Men” (which is personally in my top five all-time favorite films), the end to “Gravity” (in which he won the Academy Award for best director), or the most important scenes from “Y Tu Mamá También,” Cuarón uses water to express symbolic meanings, and “Roma” is no exception. There’s a scene toward the end that takes place at a beach that is simply breathtaking, not only due to its gorgeous filmmaking but its powerful importance and moving acting.

While “Children of Men” may be Cuarón’s best film in my view, “Roma” is one of the 21st century's best films. This life-affirming cinematic gem is the kind of film we all need but don’t deserve. It allows us to reflect on our own lives while experiencing the lives of a broken family and tortured women who try and find purpose and meaning in a changing political and social world. 

An absolute miracle of a movie, “Roma” is a visual poem and testament to life that is not to be missed. 

Final Grade: A+

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