Maid in Mexico.
After literally reaching for the stars with 2013’s Gravity (he wanted to shoot it in space), director Alfonso Cuarón takes things right back down to earth for what proves to be his most personal and, arguably, beautiful film to date.
Telling the story of an upper class Mexican family’s maid, Cleo (Yalitza Aparicio), over the course of a year, Roma appears and feels smaller than it truly is, whilst also boasting some of Cuarón’s most impressive and larger scale visuals.
The word “intimate” has been used to describe Roma in nigh every review of it thus far, and this is deservedly so. Immediately drawing one into Cleo’s life, Cuarón makes every frame count, never making it feel like a film, but like you truly are along for the ride. One scene in a movie theatre stands out in such a way, as Cleo informs her lover that she is pregnant. The camera is bolted still for the entire sequence, place behind the two, equal focus on the characters and the movie playing, as if you are simply a bystander to the events taking place. Sad in emotion, yet simply brilliant in execution.
And simple is the word. Cuarón’s camera lingers and pans throughout the film, letting events play out slowly, yet believably. Every pan telling us all we need to know, every static shot holding on the most inane to the most uncomfortable of moments, hammering in the emotion one must feel as Cleo does. Cuarón does not command his camera in the virtuoso way he may have done on Children of Men, but he commands his environment, beat for beat.
The cast are each immaculately perfect in their performances. Yalitza Aparicio owns every moment as the put-upon Cleo, content in her work, and tolerant of all that hits her, even if it hits hard, while Marina de Tavira equally impresses as Cleo’s upper-class employer, juggling an emotional shredding along with remaining stoic for the sake of her children, and also getting some of the film’s best laughs. Both of them earn those Oscar nominations, and then some.
Roma is a refreshing monochrome masterpiece from Cuarón, evoking thrills, emotion, and warmth, the latter of which is a reminder of what cinema needs most of in this cynical age. And given its hatfull of awards and nominations thus far, it is evident that Roma will have a great impact on the masses to come.