Roma

Roma ★★★★★

”No matter what they tell you, women... We are always alone.”

The fact that this may very well be the last week that Roma can be enjoyed on the big screen is a travesty. Maybe I should feel fortunate that I'm getting the opportunity to even see it at all, as I'm proudly not a Netflix subscriber and would have no other way if not for taking the drive to Philly this afternoon.

With that said, Alfonso Cuarón is an absolute magician, and unfortunately too few film-lovers will be able to appreciate this movie the way it was intended: on the biggest screen possible with a captive audience entranced by its beauty and majesty. While I trust that many of you have lovely in-home entertainment systems (like, invite me over sometime, I can “Netflix” without the “chill”), it'll be nothing compared to what I witnessed today at the Ritz at the Bourse in downtown Philly.

Drawing on his own childhood in Mexico City, Cuarón draws you into La Ciudad with stunning scope and personal flair. It is breathtaking. At times, it asks its audience to slow down and find that breath. It gives you those moments to inhale, then takes it away from you again. Not only does the film reward you for seeing it in theatres with its gorgeous cinematography, it begs you to be patient until its stunning multi-tiered crescendo.

It is an assault on your senses and emotions. I heard audible weeping in the theatre twice, and mere moments later gentle laughter. A particular scene of shocking emotional trauma lingers, and strains, and holds, and implores you to not avert your eyes… in a gut-punching single take.

That one fucking hurt. You will know which one I mean.

The layers in the film run deep, from political unrest -- a century of one-party rule by the PRI will do that -- to ethnic and racial divides that transcend class. You won't be the only one who looks at this wealthy light-skinned family and their Mestizo servants with complex feelings. If it takes a film like this to get you to read a little about the complicated history of language and race in Mexico, so be it.

Yalitza Aparicio is of course the star here, as the young domestic worker Cleo. She's getting tremendous praise for her debut film performance. She deserves all the accolades in the world, but I'd like to draw attention to the tremendous supporting role by Marina de Tavira as the aggrieved wife and mother of the family for which Cleo works. Her pain and love is so raw and real, destroying any pretense you may have had of her as just some trophy wife of a rich doctor. Watch her roller-coaster performance and marvel.

I can't say enough at how this affected me. Only First Reformed and Burning had anything like the effect of this film in 2018. Oscars, here we come.

Added to The 50 Best (non-documentary) Films of 2018.
Added to Alfonso Cuarón ranked.
Added to My Subjective List of the Best Narrative Films.
Added to My Subjective List of the Best Films from Every Year I've Seen Them.

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