A Film, A Love-letter, A True Masterpiece
Roma | Directed By Alfonso Cuarón | Drama | R | 2 H 15 MIN
Written By Jocelyn Illing
The camera is a powerful tool. It chooses what the audience can see and formulates their gaze. What they see might be the objective or subjective truth. Through the use of framing, the camera controls the information given to us visually. The way in which the camera moves can also make us feel as though we are intruding on the world within the film. As we watch to characters engage in a heated argument onscreen, we can’t help but recognize the voyeuristic nature within our thoughts and gaze. However, Alfonso Cuarón’s 2018 film Roma provides us with a different kind of camera. When watching the film, we do not feel as though we are disrupting the action, rather, we feel privileged to watch it unfold.
Roma follows Cleo (Yalitza Aparicio), a maid working for a middle-class family in Mexico City during the 1970s. Cleo spends her days cleaning the house, organizing the children and generally keeping the household together. She is not only a maid, but a kind of second mother to her employer’s children. She often extends the bounds of her job description, singing to the children, playing with them and accompanying them on holidays. Over the course of a year, we watch how Cleo reacts to the drastic changes unfolding in her life; stoically and with grace. Although she is the central character of the film, Cleo never really gets the chance to truly voice her opinions and express herself. It is because of this that the film’s last scene is so powerful; Cleo has so much more to tell.
What makes this film so compelling to watch is Cuarón’s exceptional camera work and art direction. Never have I seen a film as beautiful and visually gripping as this one. As previously mentioned, the camera does not try to limit the audience in their scope or guilt them into thinking that they are being invasive. Cuarón invites us into Cleo’s world and presents the visuals to us as a gift. Each image, no matter the subject matter, is stunning. Beginning with the wet, tiled floor, and ending with tilt towards the skies above the apartment building, the camera presents an idea that everything in life is beautiful. The long takes allow the viewer to take in all that is on screen and appreciate all of the little things that make up our world. The camera lingers, but not in a way that seems uncomfortable or bothersome. The film’s black and white colouring strengthens the power of the image by both focusing our gaze on textures and expressions in a way that seems undoubtably cinematic.
With the Academy Awards coming up in the few weeks, I think that it is appropriate to say that this film is a strong contender. I don’t say this often but, Roma was flawless. If it doesn’t win Best Picture I will be shocked. Regardless, Alfonso Cuarón’s love-letter to Mexico is a cinematic masterpiece that I am sure will be studied and enjoyed by many for years to come.
Watch the Official Trailer Below