The film of the year is here
Roma (M, 135 mins) Directed by Alfonso Cuaron Reviewed by
Roma takes place over a few months in 1970 and 1971. We are in Mexico City, embedded in the lives of a modestly prosperous EuropeanMexican family and their staff.
Inside the house, a marriage is slowly imploding. Outside, riots and police brutality are a part of the daily fabric of life.
Alfonso Cuaron’s semiautobiographical tale starts slowly. The characters and settings are unhurriedly sketched in. A few moments that will pay off gorgeously – a car parking in a garage, a marching band of tuneless pomposity – are teased into existence.
In the past decade or so, Cuaron has become one of the very best film-makers of his generation. Roma finds Cuaron back home, in a place he last visited in his exquisite Y Tu Mama Tambien, but now with a full arsenal of hard-earned cinematic wizardry to draw on.
The single-shot set-pieces in Children of Men and Gravity are legendary. But Roma is technique pared back to the essentials. As great chefs aim for perfection with ever fewer ingredients, so Cuaron is building some of the most astonishing moments I have ever seen on a screen from an absolute minimum of moving parts.
A visit to a furniture store to buy a cot sets up a sequence that will be dissected by film students for years.
A visit to a beach becomes a scene of such dread and beauty I literally stopped breathing until it was resolved.
At its heart, Roma is a film about the women and mothers who keep the world turning no matter what dishonesty, belligerence, narcissism, and posturing, the men in their lives throw at them.
Roma is assuredly a love letter from Cuaron to the Mexico of his childhood, but it is also a missive of infinite adoration and respect to the women who raised him.
The term ‘‘masterpiece’’ gets chucked around far too loosely, and I mostly try to avoid it. But once in a lucky blue moon, there really are no other words to do a film justice.
Roma is the best film I have seen this year. Go watch it in a cinema while you can.
Roma takes place in Mexico City over a few months in 1970 and 1971.