I felt Alfonso Cuaron went above and beyond with technical elements with “Gravity” in 2013. “Roma” is brilliant with its technical elements as well. “Roma” can be found on Netflix instantly, but that is not the way to experience “Roma” (I think). “Roma” should be experienced in 70 millimeter projection at cinemas that offer that still. At Music Box Theatre of downtown Chicago, I experienced it there. Immediately, as the film opened I was immersed with its print and breathtaking imagery that captures Mexico City in the 1970s. The film is a dark, but moving drama that has elements that may be disturbing, but very attention-grabbing.
The film focuses on a woman named Cleo (Yalitza Aparicio) who is a maid to Sofia and Antonio (Marina de Tavira and Fernando Grediaga) and their four children. Cleo does tons of work for the family by doing chores, cooking, running errands, and being on top of the household. Cleo is somewhat in thought that the relationship between Antonio and Sofia is strained. This is because Antonio keeps finding reasons to go out of town. However, Cleo starts to gear on her own relationship with Fermin (Jorge Antonio Guerrero). From that point on, there are catastrophes that happen in “Roma.” The issues start to come into place in family conflicts and issues with Mexico city in the time frame. The big issues though, is Cleo is pregnant.
What came to my mind about “Roma” was its color of being black and white. It has been a while since I have seen a 70 millimeter movie in black and white. Now Cuaron makes some intense movies definitely, and some are fairly gruesome. I feel in certain key moments of suspense, the black and white element on 70 millimeter heightens the moments of violence because it leaves its viewers to wonder how disturbing something might actually be in color. Also there are moments of continuity where the 70 millimeter concept feels very inviting and that is because the format takes up the entire screen, where as digital takes up half the screen.
I found “Roma” to have many connections to Cuaron’s “Y Tu Mama Tambien” (2001). That film also takes place in Mexico and contains just an equal amount of tension between its characters as “Roma” does. However, the conflicts take place in different time periods, but in the same country. In most of Cuaron’s movies, the conflicts are somewhat obvious, but not very much in “Roma.” “Roma” challenges its viewers to try and put the pieces together towards figuring out which character or which event has led to uncomfortable situations.
At times when Cleo and Fermin seem to be not on the best terms, Cuaron creates most of the tension by having Fermin be more self-centered. It is like the tension moments in “Y Tu Mama Tambien” but without the spanish narrations. I remember that “Y Tu Mama Tambien” would have an event, a new chapter to tell, or a fact, and there would be narrations in Spanish when those moments served an element of importance. “Roma” identifies its the feelings of its characters through their thoughts and dialogue.
With Cleo being pregnant, that play suspense in “Roma.” Cleo’s pregnancy is at a bad time for herself, for her job, and she is not sure if it will work with her boyfriend or on her income. This is like the problem in Cuaron’s “Children of Men” (2006) which is a futuristic film where the world is going insane because women have become infertile. However one girl is all of a sudden able to get pregnant and one man agrees to take her to a sanctuary. I remember that movie being suspenseful because of someone being pregnant more because its in a time frame of violence and corruption. “Roma” is somewhat suspenseful because of Cleo’s pregnancy but more suspenseful for financial and mental health reasons for Cleo.
Overall, “Roma” is worth the viewing, but I highly suggest experience it in 70 millimeter to remember its vast cinematography. Cuaron is becoming quite talented at making his films visually moving. He was visually moving with almost all of his movies and with “Roma” being his eighth film, he is definitely stepping up his game with using cinematography and lighting to make his work be inviting for his fans. “Roma” was very inviting for me and was well worth the time at a location that has 70 millimeter projection. This is definitely one of the best films of 2018, and I hope it receives tons of more press. Four stars.