James 🇺🇦’s review published on Letterboxd:
Alfonso Cuarón's chef-d'œuvre, Roma is a singular work of art by a filmmaker unmistakeably in complete control of his craft, the Mexican auteur draws on his own experiences of childhood to tell a deeply personal story that transcends time, borders and language barriers to become an intimate, emotionally exhilarating reflection on life itself. This is his Amarcord, a remembered dream evocated so effortlessly on camera but presented in a manner of unique artifice that owes little to Italian neo-realism.
If you're familiar with his work you'll know that Cuarón favours the long take and there's no shortage of those here, the opening shot of a floor being washed for several minutes is enough to test anyone's patience but it's a crucial introduction that eases us into a leisurely, sedated style that modern filmmaking has all but forgotten. It gently allows us time to soak up every inky detail in the gorgeous black and white widescreen cinematography, whilst the frequent use of panoramic tripod shots, sometimes even coming full circle, physically puts us into the space, inviting us to inhabit the period setting which is so vividly realised.
It's one of those ponderous films like Yi Yi and Michael Haneke's Amour that make you begin wonder what exactly is the purpose, if the build up is leading to anything and if the pay-off will be worthwhile. It usually is and Roma certainly delivers a beautiful, life-affirming finale, but the rest of the film is just as captivating. It gives us subtle insights into a family in crisis; the ups, down and the mundane moments of one tumultuous year in the life of am ordinary middle class family, all set against the backdrop of a fiery political climate.
The story is told from the perspective of the family's housekeeper Cleo, played by Yalitza Aparicio in a career making performance that will melt your heart. This is her journey, one of political indifference, modest desires and familial bonds. Any concerns I had about arty pretension on the director's part were quickly alleviated as the story totally enveloped me. This one deserves to be seen on the big screen, although being on Netflix means it might reach a wider audience, which can't be a bad thing. Film of the year for me.