Roma (dir. Cuaron)

Image: Marco Graf, Yalitza Aparicio, and Daniela Demesa in Roma © Photograph by Alfonso Cuaron. [Source: IMDB]


Partly inspired by real-life events that director Alfonso Cuaron remembers and the stories he has been told by the woman who inspired the main character. This is a grassroots story about a middle-class family’s maid in Mexico city, the early 1970s.

Director: Alfonso Cuaron. Starring: Yalitza Aparicio, Marina de Tavira [15]

What makes Roma so powerful and so enchanting is quite simply, well – how simple it is. It’s not glossed up or glamorising, there are no big acting talents, there are no wild special effects. It’s even in black and white, almost everything is shot statically in wide lenses and the story is ever so simple. A maid and a family deal with everyday struggles.

While I say there is nothing extravagant about the picture. It’s only half-true because the cinematography is breathtaking and quite often distracting. The way in which everything is framed and the stage blocking choreographed with the camera’s movements is stimulating. Not only that but everything has this textured lived in aspect to it, as if you can almost feel the shots or smell the atmosphere, partly achieved through the use of black and white but that is not the sole purpose of stripping away the colour.

Predominantly this is a movie personal to Cuaron. It’s his memories, a dear friends life, that intimacy is present throughout but as for the use of black and white. It reinforces this appreciation for the past as the use of both the lack of colour and the wide static shots, recall classic movies in the minds of viewers, which is backed up through the methodical pacing of the picture. One thing this highlights is the core feeling of nostalgia or memory. As not only do classic movies bring to mind childhood (at least for this film fanatic) but also a deeper love for the aspects of family life that perhaps Cuaron is saying are missing today. Which I believe to be a theme subtly told throughout the film, one of nature versus whatever you might call the opposite of that. The way in which the main character battles against the dog leaving his business on the floor, the animalistic motif that shows itself throughout the film and in many different characters and the way they have to fight against nature of all descriptions to survive. So while the narrative is simple there is still a lot to unpack and from what I’ve found there are numerous avenues to unpack depending on what stands out to you. The slow-burning pace allows that room to explore.

Through the narrative as at its core, it is a wholesome story of family. It’s that simplicity and stripping away all ‘falsehoods’ of cinema that accumulate to this films tender grasp. It reminds heavily of Italian neo-realist cinema, to which films such as Bicycle Thieves and Rome Open City told simple, direct, working-class stories of real people, often times starring real people in desperation. It’s an imitation that I believe Cuaron has tried to achieve as the actors and actress are completely faceless, by this I mean they possess no qualities that you might believe them to be star talents. They appear utterly real and pure in their characters. Exemplifying the pureness of their performances also, they carry the intimacy of the picture perfectly. This is a film that is both simple and complex, void of colour yet absolutely beaming, beautiful as it is heart-wrenching. I believe this to be Cuaron’s personal masterpiece.

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