Roma ★★★★★

TIFF 2018 film #10

Alfonso Cuarón’s passion project is a study in contrasts.

On the one hand it deals with a families most intimate moments, and on the other hand contrasts these events with the broad state of affairs of Mexico in the early 1970’s including the government training of paramilitary forces and the nightmarish student massacre of 1971. Many scenes are small and mundane, but an explosive mind blowing scene is just around the corner.

Although he isn’t projected into the film specifically, this is a year in the life of the then ten year old Cuarón. Although the story is free flowing and largely plotless, you can tell that not a detail wasn’t carefully scripted and visualized. This was confirmed by the weary but happy producers during our Q&A, telling stories of how they would come back to Cuarón time and again with production plans, only to be told that they didn’t match his memory. I was 12 at the time, and my memory sparked with all the small details like the angel adorned record label of Jesus Christ Superstar to the multi coloured inflatable beach balls of the time.

Roma is gorgeous. Filmed in digital 65mm black and white, it’s a film that cries to be seen on a big screen despite the seemingly smallness of the story. Cuarón told our audience that his long time, internationally acclaimed, cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki was to photograph the picture, but that delays in pre-production meant that Chivo was unavailable. Rather than seek another DP, Cuarón took on the duties himself. I think this happenstance worked out for the best, as he is the only one who can really visualize his own childhood.

I was a bit worried after the success of Gravity, Cuarón would be lost to us as an auteur filmmaker. Roma proves this fear to be baseless. Cuarón can be big and small, grand and intimate all at the same time.

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