Darren Carver-Balsiger’s review published on Letterboxd:
I saw this at Leeds International Film Festival 2018.
Roma is the film Alfonso Cuarón's career has always been building towards. This is a pure vision, a series of memories that don't stay still. Cuarón has created a homage to a time long gone, to people now old, to a culture that thrived. Everything is clearly so specific and precise, this is a nostalgic dream looked back at with the knowledge that you've grown up. Cuarón directs, writes, photographs, co-produces, and co-edits Roma, creating an unfiltered personal film that transcends the mere images we see.
The aftermath of Roma is when it truly reveals itself to be amazing. It seems cold to watch at times, but hours later, I'm breaking down just thinking about it. Roma is a film which takes a while to understand, but gradually we see that it's about the little people in life's big events. This is constantly a film of crowds, but it's the people on the side that Cuarón makes us invest in. There's endless details among the rich tapestry of people onscreen, but Roma is the story of those who are unseen, a maid, a servant. Those who have to internalise their problems so as to not jeopardise their livelihood. This is the story of women who are abandoned and left on their own. Having to cope with loss in a world with no time to grieve, where work comes above all else. To some extent the bourgeois are decaying in Roma, but this is a film where different classes of people come together. It's a mixture of the cynical and the hopeful; cynical because the class structure is preserved and re-enforced, hopeful because the mingling of these groups rarely happens in real life. Yet as the poor servant performs her daily tasks, perhaps the love she receives fulfils something that money can't provide.
Roma is, easily, Cuarón's most technically impressive film. Whereas Children of Men pioneered in its long takes, and Gravity was a genius use of visual effects, Roma has so many crowd-filled long takes and precise, gliding camerawork that I don't know how Cuarón was able to conceive and execute such logistically challenging, technically difficult shots. He's able to pick people out of a crowd whilst moving on a scale that seems endless. So many shots are filled with movement in various planes, as if the chaos of reality just played out before the camera. Yet Cuarón also embraces the static, allowing us to linger on shit-stained floors and people singing by a fire. His set-piece shots feel like turning points, with the latter half containing drawn out moments that everything has been building towards. There's two consecutive scenes that are among the year's finest. I also want to mention how incredible Roma's sound design is. It is an all-encompassing mesh of sound. The crowds here are personified by every detail that we hear. Few moments are truly quiet, and the sounds of a bustling city envelops us from all sides. We get the planes overhead, the band in the street, the roar of a car, this is the sound of a vibrant, human life. I haven't heard a better film in the cinema all year.
Roma is a collection of beautiful memories, capturing a lost innocence. It ends up just a scrapbook covering a short period of time. We see the key moments in a year that may or may not matter as much as any other year. Roma has no ending, just an end point. The story will still continue, because struggles will still happen, life will still be lived. Look at the planes overhead, the world stretches beyond this tiny insignificant story. Roma ends when it has to, but nothing is really over. It's a truly cinematic experience and yet it tells a story which doesn't need a beginning and doesn't have an end. It just exists, a perfect time capsule that needn't be buried again.