The film of the year is here

The Dominion Post - - Entertainment -

Roma (M, 135 mins) Di­rected by Al­fonso Cuaron Re­viewed by Graeme Tuck­ett ★★★★★

Roma takes place over a few months in 1970 and 1971. We are in Mex­ico City, em­bed­ded in the lives of a mod­estly pros­per­ous Euro­pean-Mex­i­can 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.

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