With Roma, an artful love letter to the women who raised him, director Alfonso Cuarón draws on his own childhood to create a vivid and emotional portrait of domestic strife and social hierarchy amidst Mexico's political turmoil of the 1970s.
Roma, explains Josh Rottenberg, "follows a year in the life of a middle-class family and its nanny, Cleo, chronicling the dramas, small and large, that at times fray their relationships and the love that binds them together."
"Ninety percent of the scenes represented in the film are scenes taken out of my memory," Cuarón tells Zach Scharf. “Sometimes directly, sometimes a bit more obliquely. It's about a moment of time that shaped me, but also a moment of time that shaped a country. It was the beginning of a long transition in Mexico." To read the full interview, click here.
Making the film, the director tells Rottenberg, "was a matter of coming to terms with the conflict between my present and the past. Because in the process there was a constant tension: I’m trying to portray those memories but through the prism of my understanding of today." To read the full article, click here.
From the very first shot, writes David Fear, "a close-up of a floor in a hallway, the sound of soapy water splashing in the background before washing over the tiles—you can sense that something special is about to happen. It's not just the lack of opening fanfare in the soundtrack as the art deco credits roll (there will be no score; the only music you'll hear will be the occasional song drifting out of a radio and the cacophonic symphony of street life). It's not just the black-and-white cinematography, which lends the moment a monochromatic gravitas from the get-go.
"No, it’s the fact that the filmmaker starts his lengthy look back at the environment that nurtured him with a gorgeous but quotidian visual and lets it sit there for close to two minutes, allowing you to soak in every wet aural whoosh, every soap bubble and spidery crack in the ground." To read the full article, click here.
"Blessed with an exceptionally acute sensitivity to the things of life, Roma is a memory film of unusual beauty that pushes to the foreground what is commonly left in the background," writes Todd McCarthy.
"Memory can be subject but it can also be objective," the director tells Scott Roxborough. “I was interested to observe those moments at a distance without a judging eye, not allowing the camera to interfere.”
"An immersive bath in some of the most luxuriantly beautiful black-and-white images you’ve ever seen," McCarthy continues, "this is the work of a great filmmaker who exhibits absolute control and confidence in what he’s doing." To read the full article, click here.
"Thanks to Cuarón’s own remarkable 65mm cinematography, it feels as if the filmmaker is writing his memoirs with moving images," says Eric Kohn.
"There is [a] sublime recreation of Mexico in the early seventies," says Eric Ortiz Garcia, "from the Teatro Metropólitan when it was a cinema where people could smoke watching their movie, the music that played and the television programs that were seen at that time, to the posters of the 1970 FIFA World Cup or the propaganda that announced the PRI (Institutional Revolutionary Party) everywhere.
"An ordinary trip to the cinema... becomes a notorious lateral traveling shot that makes us feel that we are accompanying [the passengers] while entering a popular area of the city, to then reveal subtly and yet forcefully a pivotal conflict that involves the protagonist family." To read the full article, click here.
"I didn't want the actors or even the crew to have preconceptions or defined answers," Cuarón tells Jake Coyle. "It was a process for everyone to be constantly searching. I was just honoring moments—the sense of time and space in those moments, but also honoring the emotional elements of those moments."
"It becomes clear soon enough that Cuarón’s stance here is that of a poetic curator of memories," McCarthy continues. "The shimmering, silvery monochromatic images summon up moments and experiences with crystalline vividness. Taking over as cinematographer himself... the director here relies upon the use of slow lateral pans to move from one event to another.
"This creates the opposite effect of quick cutaways and reaction shots, producing instead a feeling of the continuity of life, an indication of one experience or encounter leading to another, of everything being related, an establishment of certain events that will ultimately lead to a repository of permanent memories as opposed to evanescent ones." To read the full article, click here.
"Cuarón constructs a handsome world to frame these memories, which are captured in pristine monochrome," says Beth Webb. "No shot is thrown away, from the opening credits where soapy water sloshes across a tiled floor, a distant airplane visible in the reflection (a neat motif throughout the film that suggests changes to come), to a giddy pan across the rooftops where laundry is strung up like bunting."
"Roma assembles its narrative out of small moments," Kohn continues, "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." To read the full review, click here.
"It's a rare experience to feel as if you are almost intruding on a film, Webb concludes, "and oddly one that compels you to engage with it even more."