Josh Adams’s review published on Letterboxd:
Firstly, this was the Best Picture winner in 2019. Cuarón is a masterful director and well-deserved of the three oscars he received for this film.
Despite being in Black and White, Roma’s cinematography is visually stunning and consistent throughout the film. The camera is used perfectly to make you feel good. It’s the type of camerawork that makes you just go ‘yes that is perfect’. Dolly tracking shots at the start of the film are gorgeous and the one shots are beautiful. Early in the film there’s a long take of Cleo cleaning up for the night while the children are happy and the parents are both arguing whilst she’s just mundane, showing the characters in their purest ways- away from where they have a specific way to act.
It took me around 25 minutes to be gripped into the story, which is relatively short considering the story and the length of the film at 2 hours 15 mins. However, I did feel like it dragged after this. Not that it was a bad story, but the pacing wasn’t great and it felt quite long. This is in no way saying I didn’t enjoy it by the way.
Back to the positives. There’s subtlety to the delivery of news that is very shocking to the audience. When shocking news is delivered in conversation between the family and Cleo it’s portrayed as shocking but when it’s delivered between Cleo and her Mexican friends and family, it’s delivered in a relaxing manner, showing the class difference between the two in such a neat, subtle way.
Finally, the beach scene is just incredible. Honestly it is the most tense that a film has ever made me feel. The use of a long take here makes you aware of only what is in frame, fearing what is out of frame. We hear what is happening but we just can’t see how bad it is. We know what’s going to happen but our sense of sight is taken away from us. When Cleo gets in the water it feels like she’s in there for ages until we see the Sofi and Paco, making the scene just so much scarier. And the pay off. The family is united, free from the demons in Cleo’s mind about her child and free from the evil of Antonio. This desperate glee matched with the gorgeous sunset is perfect.
This film may be a tough watch due to its pacing, but that doesn’t stop it from being incredible throughout the runtime. Cuarón’s masterpiece and a must watch for anyone.