Alfonso Cuarón has created a heartfelt masterpiece of mood and nostalgia, one that reminds us that his gifts as a storyteller and an interpreter of the human experience are not dictated by scale of production.
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Cuarón never seeks a tidy resolution for their loving, lopsided, complicated relationship. But it’s one of the reasons why Roma leaves such a deep and lasting impression.
Roma is by far the most experimental storytelling in a career filled with audacious (and frequently excessive) gimmicks. Here, he tables the showiness of “Children of Men” and “Gravity” in favor of ongoing restraint, creating a fresh kind of intimacy. Like a grand showman working overtime to tone things down, he lures viewers into an apparently straightforward scene, only to catch them off guard with new information.
This is personal filmmaking taken to such an extremely minute level that at times it can almost feel prurient, like we’re accidentally eavesdropping on things too private for our ears, like we’ve intercepted an embrace sent back through time and not really meant for us at all.
Alfonso Cuarón returns to his childhood for inspiration with the meticulously beautiful Roma, an autobiographical black and white thank you letter full of warmth and love.
Roma is no mere movie — it’s a vision, a memory play that unfolds with a gritty and virtuosic time-machine austerity. It’s a Proustian reverie, dreamed and designed down to the last street corner and scuffed piece of furniture. Yet I actually think it’s far from a masterpiece, because as a viewing experience it has a slightly hermetic coffee-table-book purity. Every moment comes at you in the same methodically objective and caressing Zen way.
At times it feels novelistic, a densely realised, intimate drama giving us access to domestic lives developing in what feels like real time. In its engagingly episodic way, it is also at times like a soap opera or telenovela. And at other times it feels resoundingly like an epic.
Every individual scene feels filled with the lucid detail of a formative recollection or a recurring dream.
This glorious, tender picture, a memoir written in film language, is only indirectly about the man who made it. He stands off to the side, in the shadows, beckoning us toward something. Roma is filmmaking as gesture, an invitation to generosity that we perhaps didn’t know we could feel.
Roma may not be the memoir film many might have expected from such an adventurous, sometimes raunchy, sci-fi/fantasy-oriented filmmaker, but it’s absolutely fresh, confident, surprising and rapturously beautiful.