Review by Dash Wilson.
Set in 1970 in the Colonia Roma neighbourhood of Mexico City, Roma is the semi-autobiographical take on writer, director Alfonso Cuarón’s upbringing.
Roma, a completely black and white film, tells the story of Cleodegaria ‘Cleo’ Gutierrez (Yalitiza Apraricio), a live-in maid for a white, middle class family. One afternoon, accompanied by fellow maid and best friend Adela (Marina de Tavira), Cleo, who has just found out she is pregnant, goes to the movies with her boyfriend only to have him abandon her without explanation.
Shot on a minimalistic budget in today’s terms, Roma is another defining career moment for acclaimed director Cuarón (Children of Men, Gravity). The foreign-language film, whilst definingly simple, is deeply emotional and filled with excellent performances. Apraricio is mesmerizing in her film debut; the performance is so realistic that you often forget you are watching a film. Likewise, the supporting cast are all excellent in mainly understated roles.
Instead of using his usual cinematographer, Emmanuel Lubezki AMC ASC, Roma was shot by the director himself. The result is a deeply personal film that also manages to entertain. The landscapes and scenery around Mexico City are exquisite and create realism to that film that is all but missing in the current film landscape. The lighting too is naturalistic and moody but it creates such depth that the viewer can’t help but be impressed.
Whilst many people won’t watch this film just because it is foreign, it will no doubt be a film that is studied long into the future. Even a critical eye such as mine, finds it hard to fault. If I were Cuarón, I would be making a lot more room in my Oscars’ cabinet.
Reviewing all five films nominated for the Academy Award for Best Cinematography in 2019, Dash Wilson is a film-lover based in Brisbane and is the resident Film Critic for Australian Cinematographer Magazine.