Film Review: ROMA (directed by Alfonso Cuarón )

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by Joan Alperin on December 23, 2018

in Film


Written, directed, photographed, and edited by Alfonso Cuarón (Y Tu Mamá También, Gravity) Roma is not only one of the best films of the year but the decade. There are so many things that I want to say about it, but I won’t hesitate to call it an artistic masterpiece.

You know something very special is in store when the film opens with water spreading out over red square tiles, turning into grimy foam as it stretches out on a long narrow patio outside a house. The camera pans from the water to Cleo (the extraordinary Yalitza Aparicio) a 26-year-old Mixtec indigenous woman. She walks across the patio nudging the water over the wet floor with a squeegee. Soon bubbles appear. The camera keeps focusing on the water as Cleo picks up a broom and starts to push it to a corner. This goes on for at least several minutes until we meet the other characters who live in this house: The mother, Sofia (Marina de Tavira), her cheating doctor husband, Antonio (Fernando Grediaga), and their three children.

Shot in beautiful black-and-white, it takes place in 1970s’ Mexico City, a turbulent time in the country’s history. The drama unfolds through the eyes of Cleo, even as she performs simple chores such as mopping the floor in the opening. She meets a boy, gets pregnant, and takes care of the children and the family in this middle-class home.

Based on the director’s own childhood, this poignant portrait is made extraordinary because background players and action are as important as what’s happening with the main characters. As cinematographer, Cuarón uses his camera the way Picasso used his brush. He paints pictures that are riveting to behold, which is why this is definitely a film that needs to be seen on the big screen (Roma is also streaming on Netflix, the company which produced it). It’s the difference between looking at a photo of a work of art and seeing the work in a museum. Either way, don’t miss it.

photos courtesy of Netflix

Participant Media, Esperanto Filmoj
United States/Mexico | 135 minutes
in limited release November 21, 2018
on disc/streaming beginning 

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Susan Penn December 26, 2018 at 9:27 pm

Great recommendation! I have a big screen TV and watched it on Netflix.


Lorri Reines December 27, 2018 at 2:11 pm

Beautifully written review. Loved the film myself and highly recommend watching.


Paul Bailey December 27, 2018 at 11:23 pm

Excellent review, Joan.
We’ve seen the film and it is truly exquisite in every way that you describe it.


Gloria Garvin December 28, 2018 at 1:08 am

As you said, “Roma is an artistic masterpiece.” I hope it stays in the theaters, as I’d like to see it again. Thanks for your great review.


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