‘Roma’ Review: A Black and White Contrast of Humanity

I must preface this review by stating that whatever is critiqued and observed is not out of malice or personal bias.

As an American born citizen, my knowledge of life in Mexico is, of course, limited and shrouded, in what is presented to me in media.

That being said, I found “Roma” (2018), to be profound at times. The filmmaker and writer of this picture, Alfonso Cuarón, paints quite a surreal, volatile portrait of perseverance on a crude canvas. Dwindling the lines between avant-garde and neorealism, Roma’s story takes a quiet and methodical approach to a relatively simple story.

The story focuses mainly on Cleo, the maid of a presumably affluent family in the neighborhood of Colonia Roma, the derivative of the film’s title, in 1970s Mexico City. The simplicity of the film is based off the story clichés found in a variation of films throughout the years.

Yailitza Aparicio as Cleo, Marco Graf as Pepe, Carlos Peralta Jacobson as Paco, and Daniela Demesa as Sofi in Roma, written and directed by Alfonso Cuarón. Image by Alfonso Cuarón.

A wife must explain the dilemmas of infidelity to her children as her husband revels in the freedom of promiscuity, and a woman must deal
with an unplanned pregnancy as the father revels in reluctancy.

Cuarón, of course, melds socio-political themes into tales of human bonding, which should be familiar to fans of his earlier work, “Y Tu Mamá También” (2001). For a pure cinephile, mise-en-scene is prevalent and riddles almost each scene; each scene is a delicate foreshadowing of the next.

Alfonso Cuarón, paints quite a surreal, volatile portrait of perseverance on a crude canvas.” — Cameron Rodriguez

Cuarón seems to revel in its poetry, as well as the film itself; however, personally for me there were times where the more somber moments lingered a little too long. Not to say that these scenes seemed pretentious; but at times, the film became an indulgence on form.

As a cinephile and filmmaker myself, I understand that this is something that is common for most filmmakers; hoping to tell a poignant story that has been permeating in one’s mind – which I’m sure this is.

Delving into the political and indigenous aspects of the film is just a touchy subject so I’ll just leave that aspect of the film alone. However, the film definitely overtly, and covertly juggles those lines, for the director’s sake. In terms of this film being scaled to Cuarón’s other filmography, I would say it comes a close second to “Children of Men” (2006) with “Y Tu Mamá También” and “Sólo con Tu Pareja” (1991) at the top. Overall, a melancholy yet necessary observation on the human condition.

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