Alfonso Cuaron’s rivetting Roma has bowed at the Venice Film Festival to rave reviews. Set in Mexico City, it is Cuaron’s most personal film to date, inspired by the women in his life. Roma charts the lives of a middle-class family. Cleo (Yalitza Aparicio) and Adela (Nancy García García), work for a family in the middle-class neighborhood of Roma. As their employer Sofia (Marina de Tavira) copes with her husband’s absence, the three women construct a new sense of love and solidarity in a context of a social hierarchy where class and race are perversely intertwined.
Indiewire’s Eric Kohn gave the film an A, saying: “Roma. assembles its narrative out of small moments, as the director’s camera pans slowly through various scenes to soak in the distinctive locale, while dispensing tidbits of story details from unlikely places. (It begs for multiple viewings, which could make the controversial decision for Cuarón to release the movie on Netflix actually a godsend, even though it deserves a big screen.)
“Thanks to Cuarón’s own remarkable 65mm cinematography, it feels as if the filmmaker is writing his memoirs with moving images, yielding a hypnotic effect closer in style to the muted aesthetic of Argentine auteur Lucrecia Martel, or Chantal Akerman’s Jeanne Dielman. Cuarón’s 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.”
Todd McCarthy at The Hollywood Reporter says of RomaRoma: “An immersive bath in some of the most luxuriantly beautiful black-and-white images you’ve ever seen, this is the work of a great filmmaker who exhibits absolute control and confidence in what he’s doing. He takes an unsentimental, unexpectedly dispassionate view of convulsive family issues, which are placed in the greater context of specific Mexican social matters and the march of time. This immaculate drama from Netflix could score equally well with upscale art-seekers and general Spanish-speaking audiences.”
The Guardian’s Peter Bradshaw calls Roma, “his best film so far: a thrilling, engrossing and moving picture with a richly personal story to tell, beautifully and dynamically shot in pellucid black and white.” Bradshaw says, “Cuarón has an extraordinary way of combining the closeup and the wide-shot, the tellingly observed detail – humorous or poignant or just effortlessly authentic – with the big picture and the sense of scale. At times it feels novelistic, a densely realized, 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.”
Screendaily calls Roma his best. “Cuarón tells an intimate story, never more so than when the family is home, he also effortlessly widens it out to fill the screen. New Year’s Eve at a hacienda in the country, where a forest fire breaks out; a trip to the cinema where Cleo breathlessly tracks her wayward charges; and, finally and devastatingly, the Corpus Christi Massacre is re-staged, leading to the film’s most haunting, confronting and evocative sequence.
There’s a lot of love in ROMA, and, as is the way with love, it doesn’t always arrive in ways that are equal, or reciprocated, or even endure. His first film to be set in his homeland since Y Tu Mama Tambien in 2001 is Alfonso Cuarón’s most personal film, and his most honest. It may even be his best.”
The Wrap’s Alonso Duralde implores: “Shot in 65mm black-and-white — please, Netflix, let audiences see this movie projected in 70mm before it hits your streaming service.” Duralde says, “There are, to be sure, impressive set pieces and powerful scenes, but it’s the quiet, quotidian moments that give the film its power.” On the casting, Duralde says, “The ensemble is well cast throughout, with even the performers in the smallest roles making an impact. Ultimately, this is Aparicio’s show: She communicates both in Spanish and an indigenous dialect known as Mixteca, but she’s got the expressive eyes of a silent-film goddess. One of the film’s most wrenching scenes is just a hold on Cleo’s face, and Aparicio turns the moment into the screen’s most powerful close-up since Nicole Kidman in “Birth.”