Roma ★★★★★

I have a particular fondness for small films that formerly indie filmmakers do after achieving mainstream success. Now they have resources even if it’s a story other filmmakers would make on a shoestring. Like Sam Raimi doing Drag Me To Hell after a trilogy of superhero films. It’s unabashedly a tiny horror film, but they were able to build sets, get top-notch makeup, digital effects, and a cast of known actors. Other films in this vein are Knives Out and Trance. Roma is as well.

You can envision a version of this film without the audio mix. A version without the digital work to recreate mid-century Mexico City. A version of this film more like In The Mood For Love consisting of tight, low-angle shots. And while I’m sure that film would have been wonderful, what makes Roma so great is that scale. A tiny story told on as large of a canvas as possible. Here a tiny story can be rendered as epically as it feels. You can also achieve shots where it’s possible for your characters to get lost in a frame.

It’s also a film that is daring enough to know when to hold back. Despite all the resources, it’s still a film told mostly in rudimentary pans and tilts. An epic battle is primarily glimpsed out a window. Cuarón knows that excess upon excess will numb an audience (see: Birdman) and that is why he is one of the all-time greats.

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