By Mark Saldana
Rating: 4 (Out of 4 Stars)
From Mexican director Alfonso Cuaron, comes what is probably his most personal film. Though the movie will be available for viewing via Netflix, it is still a piece which demands to be watched theatrically. But this isn’t the typical kind of bombastic summer blockbuster that usually requires the cinema experience. Cuaron’s subtle, understated approach to his material is the kind of indie film which greatly benefits from a dark theater with a solid sound system. It is an intimate affair that requires undivided attention. Cuaron’s superb filmmaking and writing are guaranteed to absorb audiences, win their hearts and take them on a most sentimental journey.
The story takes place in Mexico between 1970 and 1971 and offers a candid portrait of a modestly comfortable family and their maid Cleo (Yalitza Aparicio). While the family is going through a rough patch, with parents Sofia (Marina de Tavira) and Antonio (Fernando Grediagna) going through a separation, Cleo is facing some trying times of her own. When not caring for the children and tending to the housekeeping, Cleo deals with an unexpected turn of events involving her life and relationship with boyfriend Fermin (Jorge Antonio Guerrero). Despite all of life’s problems and curve balls, Sofia, her mother, the children and Cleo all have each other for the love and support they badly need.
With Roma, Alfonso Cuaron has made his most moving and poignant film. Cuaron, who not only wrote and directed the movie, actually took on the duties of cinematographer as well. With a very subtle and unobtrusive approach, the filmmaker allows his audience to be immersed in the moments and be silent witnesses to the action, drama and comedy. Because of the excellent work of the skilled sound department, as one watches the story unfold, that person feels they are actually there in that world and in those moments. Cuaron’s understated writing and deliberate direction creates and captures these moments perfectly and allows the audience to bask in their beauty.
All of the cast members give superb performances that are natural and true-to-life. Marina de Tavira gives a fiery, but vulnerable turn as matriarch Sofia, a woman trying desperately to keep it together while her marriage is in a most tense and uncomfortable limbo. The movie also features great work by Diego Cortina Autrey, Carlos Peralta, Marco Graf, Daniela Demesa, Nancy Garcia Garcia, Veronica Garcia, and Jorge Antonio Guerrero. However, first time actress Yalitza Aparicio is the one who truly amazes as the family housekeeper Cleo. She gives a performance that evokes genuine emotions of love and heartbreak.
And though I still have more foreign language films to watch before the year’s end, this entry is guaranteed to rankly highly. It is not only one of the best foreign language movies if 2018, it is one of the year’s best films. It might also be my favorite film by Alfonso Cuaron. Roma will be available for viewing on Netflix starting December 14, but if one has the opportunity to see it theatrically, I must heartily encouraged it. This is definitely the best way to experience this phenomenal movie.