Roma ★★★½

Others have beat me to the punch on this point but it reminded me of GRAVITY which, considering how clearly personal this all is for Cuarón, it has no business doing. Astonishing formal control by the director, who moves closer and closer to being a one-man band (he’s serving as his own DP here with Lubezki being unavailable), depicting a year in the life of an upper class Mexican family and their domestic workers in the early 70’s with a measured precision that lends itself to very special threads on One Perfect Shot but also hermetic filmmaking. The film’s towering tracking shots and pristine, deep focus black and white digital photography are routinely breathtaking while also making the film a curious bell cow for Netflix’s push for Oscar legitimacy (most of the film’s strengths will be lost watching it on an iPad or while folding laundry). But considering the subject matter (which simultaneously follows a dissolving marriage and an unplanned pregnancy) I found myself held at arm’s length throughout, in part because of how Yalitza Aparicio’s character has seemingly been conceived entirely from the point of view of her employers, forcing the actress into a mold of saintly and docile even in her private moments. Cuarón can still stage a one-take set piece like no one alive (he even gets to refine The Battle of Bexhill sequence from CHILDREN OF MEN, dialing back the showboating while making the peril even more tangible) but we’re never not aware of how spectacular this all looks and sounds and, ultimately, the compositions dwarf the human drama. I wanted to be overwhelmed by the empathy and instead I’m googling the name of the focus puller*.

*Aces job, Francesco Cavazza!

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