Mexican writer-director-cinematographer-editor Alfonso Cuarón’s, Roma, has been the latest Netflix hit to come to our television screens. The intimate family drama is one of Cuarón’s lost childhood memories brought to life. Currently hitting the headlines at the BAFTA’s and being the underdog besides The Favourite at this year’s Oscars, I had to see what all the fuss was about for the black and white talked-about piece.
Roma follows the life of a middle-class family’s maid in Mexico City in the early 70s. Cleo (Yalitza Aparicio) is quite content with her life as a maid, but when the troubles of the current political climate in Mexico starts to rise, Cleo starts to see pattern changes in her day-to-day life. From having problems with men to suffering a loss, Cleo has to become stronger as part of the family unit.
First thoughts; it’s understandable why Cuarón is headlining a lot of the major awards. Single-handedly, he has written and directed one of the films of the year. He has an extraordinary way of telling stories, even more so within the cinematography, with the combination of close-ups to wide angle shots. The long panning shots perfectly mould around his direction, allowing the narrative to flow through effortlessly. Alfonso has delved deep into his mind to unearth a blend of intricacies; power dynamics in class, ethnicity, politics, family and gender. The plot was not overdramatised in the slightest, giving it a realistic, genuine feel. In what feels like real-time, the character development unfolds to tell an engagingly heart-breaking episodic story. The simplistic black and white aesthetic may have made it easier for Cuarón to handle but it gives the film a different emphasis, a world away from his ventures on Gravity.
Cuarón did most of the hard work but he wouldn’t have been able to do it without his dominant female leads. Non-professional newcomer Yalitza Aparicio strongly leads the way in her role as Cleo to emphasise the believability. From start to finish, you have a sense of the woman that she has become, making for a harder hitting story. The interaction between Cleo and Sra. Sofía (Marina de Tavira) showed a realistic level of class. With their fortunate coming together over mutual happenings with men disrespecting them, it resonates and with Cuarón directing them, they push their way to the front of exceptionally strong female leads. A wonderful performance from Aparicio.
Side note; Roma is streaming on Netflix; an arch nemesis of the big screen but the fact that Roma has impacted award ceremonies everywhere, does this show a change in heart for the streaming platform? In some respects, Netflix might be shutting down the cinematic experience, but it is culling in great inspirational films, showing them to wider audiences to appreciate. This could be the rise in critically acclaimed movies going to the streaming service before giving the cinema a chance.
Nevertheless, Cuarón and his wonderful team have created a film worthy of the awards; will it beat the likes of The Favourite? It had its fair share of awards at the BAFTA’s last week so we could be in for another Moonlight vs. La La Land situation. Let’s hope they get the cards the right way round.