Film review: Roma (2018)


Last night I watched this film from acclaimed director Alfonso Cuarónt that has received rave reviews all over. It received a 96% critics rating from both Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic. It is being strongly tipped to receive the Academy Award for best picture, plus awards for acting, directing, and others.

Over the course of his filmmaking career, Alfonso Cuarón has explored everything from outer space (“Gravity”) to a dystopian future (“Children of Men”) to a world populated by wizards and fantastical creatures (“Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban”).

With his newest film, the 56-year-old director is somewhere that’s closer to home but no less rich in mystery or magic: his own past.

Set in Mexico City in the early 1970s and inspired by his childhood memories, Cuarón’s upcoming drama “Roma” follows a year in the life of a middle-class family and its nanny, Cleo, chronicling the dramas, small and large, that at times fray their relationships and the love that binds them together.

Shot in black and white, with a cast mixing professional actors and non-actors and a scope at once intimate and epic, “Roma” received rapturous reviews in its initial outings at the Venice and Telluride film festivals for its blend of naturalism and poetry, and its sensitive handling of difficult issues of class and race. Even as the film is set to screen at the Toronto International Film Festival on Monday, many are already predicting it could bring Netflix, which will release it theatrically and via streaming in December, its first best picture nomination.

I have to say right out that I did not enjoy it. I found it tedious and somewhat pointless, with some scenes, such as the one where they all go to someone’s estate for Christmas, stitched together that seemed to serve no larger purpose in the narrative. I have admitted before that when it comes to films, I am definitely not in the category of a highbrow viewer and this film left me as mystified by its reputation as did Phantom Thread last year, though that was far more boring and pretentious, with its high society fashion context. At least this film had characters with whom one could empathize.

Here’s the trailer.

Comments

  1. John Morales says

    Yeah, I’ve been exposed to the hype, but reading about it (I don’t care about spoilers) it sounds really boring. I don’t care how well it’s done, seeing something really good but boring is not my thing.

  2. enkidu says

    Coincidentally I have just returned home from seeing this film and I sort of agree with you Mano, but I also rather enjoyed it. Tedious and somewhat pointless… perhaps, but life can be just so. I thought the tensions underlying the “happy” exterior, and the eruptions of social violence were well portrayed, though some scenes, the forest fire for example and the slapstick routines with parking the car, were farcical.
    Visually, I thought the film was compelling. Nearly every shot was beautifully composed and I think the choice of black and white gave it a sort of documentary reality.

  3. Mano Singham says

    enkidu,

    Yes, daily life is full of tedium but do we need a film to reinforce that point?

    Yeah, the long scenes of parking the car in the carport were mystifying, as was the heavy focus on dog excrement. Surely people would not buy such a wide car for a narrow carport. And the two maids, who seemed to be so conscientious about their chores, would surely clean up after the dog when they were repeatedly told to do so.

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