Review: Roma

A year in the life of of middle class 1970s Mexican family and their relationship with their housekeeper is depicted in Roma. Cleo (Yalitza Aparicio) is the housekeeper for the family of Sofia (Marina de Tavira), who is often left home to safe for her four children, while her husband Antonio (Fernando Grediaga) works abroad. Over the course of the next year, this family comes to learn how essential Cleo is to them.

Roma is a self-autobiographical film from director Alfonso Cuarón (Y Tu Mamá TambiénChildren of Men), named for the district of Mexico City where the story takes place. Set between 1970 and 1971, the film focuses on Cleo, the housekeeper for a middle class family. Things become complicated in Cleo’s wife, when she begins going on with a martial artist named Fermín (Jorge Antonio Guerrero) and ends up being impregnated with his child. At the same time Sofia is undergoing problems in her marriage and often ends up taking out her frustrations on Cleo.

Roma is the first film Alfonso Cuarón directed in his native Mexico since his 2001 breakthrough film Y Tu Mamá También and Roma can arguably be described as Cuarón’s most personal film, as much of the plot is based on his own memories of growing up in Mexico City. This includes one scene in the film depicting the 1971 Corpus Christi massacre, which in turn leads into one of the more memorable, yet devastating sequences of the film.

Roma is without a doubt one of the best shot films of the year, with the film being presented in a stark black and white, which really adds to the period feel of the film. Even though Roma is a film produced for Netflix, I would highly recommend seeing this film theatrically if you can, so you can see the great care that Alfonso Cuarón put into constructing his shots, including his ability at presenting scenes in single continuous takes. Another reason to see the film theatrically is the subtle use of the film’s Dolby Atmos sound mix to make it seem like you are right there with the family.

If there is a criticism I have about Roma is that the plot of the film is somewhat slow paced and there were times that I could really feel the 2h15m running time. Even though entirety of Roma is visually beautiful, there are only a handful of sequences in the film that truly stood out to me storywise. However, even with the hit or miss plot, I will agree that Roma can be described as Alfonso Cuarón’s magnum opus, as he presents to us the film that he has been building up to make for his entire career.

Roma is now playing theatrical in an exclusive 4K Atmos presentation at the TIFF Bell Lightbox. On December 14, 2018, the film will be available for streaming on Netflix and the TIFF Bell Lightbox will begin screening the film in 70mm.