Roma ★★★★

There's no doubt that this movie is beautiful. The second half, in particular, has some really strong moments and visuals. And I love the movie's subjects, sparks of humor, and focus on the "everyday."

But while I think Roma will be deserving of any accolades it wins, everything in the film besides its script - the fantastic cinematography and acting, for instance - distracts from the script's mediocrity. Writing isn't everything, but when looking for great realist movies, I think it's crucial to weigh the force of narrative. Yes, there were great moments of writing and character development in Roma, but there was also a general and significant lack of tension. I've heard that we can best judge narrative conflict by how compelled we feel to keep reading/watching, and I stopped this movie twice before finishing it; one reason was that I never felt like I had to keep watching for anything. For instance, the climactic beach scene would have been even greater if I had ever doubted the family's love of Cleo, or if there had been any building conflict between Cleo and the children. Other scenes could have benefited from stronger conflict, too, not to mention the movie's bizarre throwaway conflicts like the forest fire. All of this is not to say Roma isn't a good and interesting movie, but rather that it is possible to portray "everyday" life and still have strong, sustained narrative and conflict: a few examples that come to mind are Eighth Grade, The Edge of Seventeen, Manchester by the Sea, Boyhood, Beasts of the Southern Wild, and A Separation. Roma seems like a good bet and a deserving choice for Best Pic this year, but realist film can do better.

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