I recently wrote about an original Netflix release, The Apostle, and how I feared that films that have limited theatrical releases may affect the ultimate viewing pleasure of that film. I interviewed the director of that same film and asked him his thoughts on the matter. He gave me what he described as his stock answer to such a question, that many of the films that he, and we, loved when we were growing up were seen on 15-20 inch TV sets with mono sound and yet we still fell in love with those films. And he’s right. I’ll admit that despite my reservations about such films being denied a wide theatrical release, I’ve still enjoyed the majority of those films.
And it’s here that we come to Roma, Alfonso Cuarón’s semi autobiographical film has elevated Netflix higher than it could ever expect to imagine. Roma is set in early 1970s Mexico and follows Cleo, (Yalitza Aparicio – in her first film) the domestic servant for a middle class family and her orbit around their lives and theirs around hers.
I’m not going to elaborate any further on plot points because to say anything else would mean missing out on seeing what Cleo sees. What Cleo hears. What Cleo feels. What Cleo witnesses.
And it’s certainly not hyperbole when I say that what we see is astonishing. Roma is breathtaking in its beautifully structed sequences set against what happens both to Cleo and around her. Every frame is used to maximum effect from the washing of a tiled floor to a beach that goes on as far as you can see in black and white palletes that make the heart ache. It really isn’t an understatement to say that this film is meticulously made.
The early ‘70s setting is remarkable in that it looks, feels and almost smells authentic. It’s attention to detail cannot be denied and it’s incredible how that comes across in all aspects of this superlative piece of art.
And coming back to Aparicio, she is a remarkable find for her first – and so far – only film. She is a genuine canvas reflecting what’s happening around and to her. She says so much by saying so little yet when she utters just one line towards the end of the film, she brought tears to my eyes.
Already lauded with awards, Roma is a serious contender for the forthcoming awards season. Cuarón has already been lauded for his previous efforts and the signs are that his latest masterpiece is headed for similar glory.
Film ‘89 Verdict – 10/10
Roma is available now on Netflix (regional variances may apply) and is on limited theatrical release in some territories.