Roma, a Modern Masterpiece
By: Pablo Varela, 11°
Alfonso Cuarón’s Roma, a true example of cinematic greatness, it is both a photographic and storytelling achievement. The film’s greatness starts with its director, Alfonso Cuarón. Cuarón, a director born in Mexico, has established himself as one of the greatest directors alive. He has directed movies like Y tu mamá también, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Children of Men, and Gravity, which won the Oscar for best director and best film editing in 2013. As a director, Cuarón has the reputation of being someone that doesn't stop until he gets the right take. He is widely known as someone that will achieve the shot he wants, even if it seems impossible. Alfonso Cuarón based the movie on his childhood in Mexico City in the 1970s. However, it is told through the eyes of his maid, Cleo, portrayed by Yalitza Aparicio. All the characters in the movie are based on Cuarón’s family. He has called Roma “a tribute to the women who raised me”.
Storytelling achievement. Roma contains a story that is both bizarre but very relatable to the audience. The characters that Cuarón shows and the conflicts he presents in this movie are easily relatable to the audience but the way he presents them is what makes this a unique experience. The movie depicts Cuarón’s mother, as someone who is broken, as she tries to deal with a recent divorce, as well as coping with four children. The film also shows Cuarón’s brothers, who tend to fight in an aggressive manner because of a childish conflict. Finally, there is the grandmother who always treats the kids with love and tries to feed them at all costs. Roma shows a family that at the outset is broken by inner conflict, but by the end succeeds and moves past their problems. The
character arc of Cleo shows this same message, as she is someone fragile and vulnerable after experiencing death, classism, rejection, and punishments throughout the movie. However, even when she loses all, she is still able to find happiness and love in those who she cherishes the most, the kids. Every single actor performed at an incredible level, especially Yalitza Aparicio, who had to show an incredible range of emotions throughout the movie. While child actors tend to ruin scenes and not be that great, but in this case, all of them were spectacular. Due to the script being so easily relatable, it creates the feeling of unity between the audience and the story he is trying to portrait.
Beyond the story and characters, there also technical achievements in this movie. Cuarón’s use of sound is spectacular. Every time the characters go to the city, the audience feels like they are there. Sometimes, Cuarón eliminates sound in order to concentrate on the feelings the characters are portraying. Beyond sound, Cuarón demonstrates his master directing skills. Though there are many examples, one in particular that shines is a scene shot in one take, in which Cuarón needed to coordinate hundreds of extras involved in a fight, while also focusing on the protagonist’s decision and feelings. Cuarón acts as his own director of photography, and it shows because every single shot is perfect, he decides not to use dialogue and let the audience gather information through the images he portrays, and every location is shot with extreme detail where he places very subtle symbolism throughout the background.
It is a shame Roma was purchased by Netflix, as it was only played in select theaters for a small time. This movie, to be appreciated to its fullest, needed a wide release. However, Roma has been nominated for 10 ten Oscar’s (best foreign film, best director, best cinematography, best film, best performance by a leading actress, best performance by supporting actress, best original screenplay, best production design, best sound editing, and best sound mixing) and because of it, all the passion and time invested in the movie, it is and will be a masterpiece and a classic.