Review: Roma (TIFF 2018)

Roma (TIFF 2018)
10 10

PLOT: A year in the life of a middle class family living in Mexico City circa 1970.

REVIEW: If any film that I’ve seen at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival has a chance to be taught in film schools for generations to come, it’s Alfonso Cuaron’s ROMA. A deeply human (and humane) slice of life loosely based on his childhood as the son of a well-to-do Mexican family, this is a throwback to the auteur works of Michelango Antonioni, Federico Fellini and Roberto Rossellini. It’s a movie that could only have been made by someone with the clout of Cuaron, and it’s one that will stand the test of time and likely be regarded as a classic by year’s end.

A kind of “year in the life” tableaux, Cuaron centres his film around the family maid, an indigenous Native Mexican named Cleo (Yalitza Aparico), who’s beloved by the children but has a cool relationship with the family matriarch, Sofia (Marina de Tavira), who’s distracted by her crumbling marriage.

Slowly, we get to know these two women, with Cleo falling for a local martial artist who, in short order, gets her pregnant and abandons her, causing her to lean on Sofia, who surprisingly rises to the occasion. There’s no typical melodrama here, we’re simply invited to spend some time with this family amid the tumult of their lives, which coincide with a dangerous time in the country, with the Corpus Cristi Massacre a big set piece later in the film.

Aparico’s Cleo is a vibrant, believable lead, carrying much of the film on her shoulders as we invest in her plight. De Tavira is just as good as the initially selfish family matriarch, who slowly but surely learns to stand on her own two feet as her husband becomes more aloof and absent.

Visually, it’s a nostalgic feast, with the 65MM, scope, black and white photography dazzling in 4K, a format in which it’ll be streamed on Netflix, and which it’s supposedly been optimized for. That said, it’s a tragedy more won’t get to see it theatrically. If ever a film cried out for theatres, this is it, especially with the nostalgia of old-time movie palaces figuring so heavily into the plot as the family goes to see movies starring Louis de Funes and the space thriller MAROONED (whose space FX made the audience that had just seen FIRST MAN giggle in comparison).

Outside of Aparico and de Tavira, the big star here is Mexico City itself, which is presented nostalgically, but also realistically, with us very aware of the major class divide present between the elite and their indigenous servants, particularly during an opulent New Year’s Eve party. It all adds up to a dazzling work that will likely win over a lot of people once it hits Netflix. Again, if you have the opportunity to see it theatrically, please go. But, even if not it’s a wonderful film and an artistic triumph for Cuaron that can’t be denied.

Source: JoBlo.com



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