Roma ★★★★

Roma understands that there are things in this life that we keep steady despite all adversity. Friends, family, relationships, even one’s own pride and determination. Chaos can define the world around us, threatening to destabilize everything we know and love. But still, we persist. Something keeps us going.

Cuarón’s dolly movements are smooth and controlled, beautiful in their simplicity and boundless in what they capture. Mexico itself is a backdrop of uncertainty and conflict, with anything ranging from an earthquake to devastating violence on the streets threatening societies, cultures, and life itself. But the camera remains steady, gliding through a house filled with years and years of personal treasures and memories. Observing with compassion as our characters run gleefully through the streets, which would later be fraught with terror. Holding on a shot of a beautiful sky, a plane carrying people with their own stories to an unknown destination. Cuarón understands that empathy can have a personal and universal element to it, reaching beyond one person and one country while also defining the character of that person. The people in this story can be both fully realized human beings and metaphors, and an impressive balance is struck in that regard. Sometimes it’s too controlled, too precise, but it never loses grasp of its humanity.

Aparicio is remarkable. Her character goes through so much, but the person that is Cleo remains unwavering. There are two moments near the end that are among the best of the year, never veering into melodrama as Aparicio pours every emotion into her character. There’s a moment on a beach that is shattering like few other scenes, its final image so striking and indelible. The film is a culmination of pain, heartbreak, and pent up exhaustion, but it’s also a yearning portrait of love and understanding. Because even in the worst of times, there are stunning moments of clarity, without judgment, without destruction, without emptiness. And all that doesn’t seem okay can be okay, and love can wade over you through the mere touch of another human being.

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