Sprung from Netflix to the big screen it always deserved, Alfonso Cuarón’s Roma gets off to an almost impenetrably personal start before fulfilling the lofty expectations that the director’s name brings to each new project.
Set in the titular Mexico City neighborhood in the early 1970s, the film moves from nearly half an hour of the slice-of-life chronicle of housemaid Cleo (Yalitza Aparicio) and the well-off family she serves to an engrossing drama involving the ramifications of her relationship with revolutionary-in-training Fermín (Jorge Antonio Guerrero), the infidelity of the family’s patriarch (Fernando Grediaga), and the dual arcs’ intersections.
Once the narrative kicks in, the overall creation blossoms into a beautiful, emotion-filled ride of B&W photography (shot by Cuarón, who also serves as writer and co-editor) — one so poetic and dreamy at times that the acute awareness of directorial presence that accompanies many an auteur’s work (i.e. Steve McQueen’s superb Widows) subsides and a feeling of effortless craftsmanship bathes one’s senses.
Pretentious as that may sound, these transcendent stretches are accented by multiple instances of bravura filmmaking that remind one of Cuarón’s active presence behind the camera, combining to form a well-balanced blend of styles and one of the year’s best films.
Grade: A-minus. Rated R. Starts Jan. 11 at Grail Moviehouse