Roma is the newest film by director Alfonso Cuarón. It made a huge splash upon its debut at the Venice Film Festival and has been steadily gaining awards buzz ever since. It is inspired by Cuarón’s childhood, chronicling a year in the life of a maid to an upper-class family in Mexico City in the early 1970’s.
The visuals of the movie are definitely beautiful. The black-and-white cinematography is absolutely amazing, with plenty of eye-catching framing and smooth camera movements. That being said, it didn’t feel entirely necessary. If Cuarón was trying to give the film a more personal feel, why is it so polished? Yes, it’s gorgeous, but that doesn’t mean a whole lot when it lacks substance.
The sound design is excellent too. This movie truly does have some of the best use of sound in any movie this year. The way in which diegetic sounds are used is brilliant, but the film also knows how to use silence effectively. The soundscape is pretty much the only element in the movie that has the desired effect of creating immersion.
Yalitza Aparicio is also a highlight of the film. Her story is quite impressive, as she has never acted before and almost didn’t audition. The movie honestly wouldn’t have been the same without her. She infuses a significant amount of emotion into the film, and she even sells some of the more ridiculous scenes.
That being said, the movie definitely isn’t a masterpiece. It is understandable why so many people love the film, but it doesn’t deserve the nearly universal acclaim which it is receiving. It falls into the style-over-substance category of films, and if you can get past its lack of narrative depth, you will likely be able to get behind its technical complexity.
The theme of the movie is very straightforward. It’s hard to not pick up on the film’s messages about social class, being open-minded, and perseverance, because the movie repeatedly bashes them over the head of the audience until they are so deep in your mind that you may just be open-minded to the movie’s inconsistencies.
Another major issue with the film is that the supporting characters are significantly underdeveloped. Yes, the story is focused on making the audience sympathize with and relate to Cleo, but it could have been more effective in delivering its message had the supporting characters been more rounded and interesting.
Some of the dialogue is very odd too. It is entirely possible that some of this issue can be attributed to language barriers. Some idioms and expressions just don’t transfer between languages. A phrase that can be deep and profound in Spanish may just seem mundane in English. That being said, the movie is redundant at times. Many scenes just go too far, with the dialogue repeating itself.
Furthermore, the film is very excessive and self-indulgent. There are some scenes in the movie that are unabashedly bizarre, and they don’t really work within the greater context. For example, there is a scene in which a character does a martial arts demonstration while fully nude. In hindsight, it is easy to see where it fits within the plot, but it is weird and excessive.
Overall, Roma was a very underwhelming film. It’s pretty to look at and listen to, but that’s about it. The script isn’t particularly well-written.
Roma is now available on Netflix.