“In his deeply personal black-and-white marvel Roma, Alfonso Cuarón (Children of Men) unhurriedly observes the smallest parts first, before expanding to gradually reveal the social and political canvas of 1970s Mexico City. A sober and autobiographical elegy about his childhood and the women who raised him (one hardworking live-in maid in particular), Roma coalesces around episodic recollections, filmed with visual conviction.
The domestic helper at the heart of the story is the gentle-natured Cleo (talented newcomer Yalitza Aparicio), who works for the affectionate but occasionally livid Sofia (Marina de Tavira, terrific and understated) and the rest of her family. Through transfixing long takes, Cuarón honours Cleo’s unsung rituals: cleaning, looking after Sofia’s four children whom she loves like her own, interacting with her best friend and co-worker Adela, going on movie dates with her self-absorbed boyfriend, and so on.
At first, the lives of Cleo and Sofia run on parallel yet detached lines, save for regular household interactions and cozy evenings spent in front of the tv, where Cleo is treated as part of the family. But when a marital separation and an unwanted pregnancy upset the lives of the two women, their fates cross paths in a real sense for the first time. And, as the world around their newfound female solidarity slowly crumbles—with earthquakes, wildfires, violent political demonstrations and one especially traumatic episode of unimaginable grief, filmed with unwavering empathy—Roma’s physical and emotional scope grows and deepens.
Cuarón demands that you savour each of his frames, scanning the corners of the screen for small but significant details, intensified by a surround sound that further enhances the film’s immersive nature. In his personal journey down memory lane, Cuarón examines Cleo’s life in respectful tribute. A richly textured masterpiece, Roma is cinema at its purest and most human.” (Tomriss Laffly, Time Out)
“Roma is by far the most experimental storytelling in a career filled with audacious (and frequently excessive) gimmicks. Here, he tables the showiness of Children of Men and Gravity in favor of ongoing restraint, creating a fresh kind of intimacy. Like a grand showman working overtime to tone things down, he lures viewers into an apparently straightforward scene, only to catch them off guard with new information.” (Eric Kohn, IndieWire)
“At times it feels novelistic, a densely realised, intimate drama giving us access to domestic lives developing in what feels like real time. In its engagingly episodic way, it is also at times like a soap opera or telenovela. And at other times it feels resoundingly like an epic.” (Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian)