By Curtis Honeycutt
The unfortunate reality of our fast-paced media release schedule is that the best of films can be lost to time. A film’s cycle of relevance can be cut short, not because of the quality but because the newest relevant movies have taken the spotlight. Even a recent critical darling like 2019’s “Roma” can fall victim to a lack of attention. It is doubly hard for a film like “Roma” because of just how subtle the film is, causing it to be overlooked.
“Roma” follows the story of Cleo, a live-in maid working for an affluent family in 1970s Mexico. Trouble arises when the father of the family she works for leaves under mysterious circumstances that cause tension at home. It is not a mystery but instead focuses on the day-to-day inter-personal minutia of Cleo’s life dealing with the family’s kids, her romantic endeavors and navigating everyday life during the Mexican Dirty War.
Director Alfonso Cuarón has crafted an immaculately detailed film. Each scene is packed with extraneous detail that gives extra context to audience members keen enough to pick it up. The film style is naturalistic and grounded; however, it explores themes of memory and recollection that cause parts of the movie to seem confusing. Some shots frame small details as the most important aspects of a scene while audiences might want to know more about the narrative implications of that scene. This is a technique Cuarón uses to simulate how people remember events in their lives. Certain songs, items and even people can instantly transport you back to a place and time, and Cuarón masterfully translates this phenomenon onto film.
“Roma’s” technical aspects are also exceptional. If you decide to watch this movie at home, please view it as loudly as possible. The sound mixing and editing are remarkably detailed, just like the visual aspects of the film. Dogs bark and engines roar off-screen, but they all sound as though you could place them around you geographically.
The film does struggle with pacing and can often feel sluggish and slow, but this is in service to the sense of everyday life that Cuarón is trying to portray, so it is hard to fault it for this alone. It can also be difficult to fully understand the story without any prior knowledge of The Cold War, and specifically, the Mexican conflict resulting from American and the Soviet Union tensions.
“Roma” is an achievement in filmmaking and deserves to be remembered and cherished. I recommend viewing it on the largest screen and loudest sound system you can find. The movie is currently available to stream for free with a Netflix subscription. – 4/5 stars