By Bradley Lane
If you’re anything like me, you’ve wondered why movie theaters during the winter months at the beginning of the year are so barren in terms of quality films. The answer lies within how American distributers decide when certain movies show.
If films don’t do well with test audiences or are made for extremely cheap with less bankable stars, they release them in “dump months”. These “dump months” are usually associated with January and February but have also come to include August and September. These months are between the summer blockbuster releases and the award season releases toward the end of the year. So instead of tearing into a film not even the studio has confidence in, I decided to revisit the winner of the best foreign film winner from this year, Roma.
Roma follows the story of Cleo, a live-in maid working for an affluent family in 1970s Mexico. Trouble arise when the father of the family she works for leaves under mysterious circumstances that cause tensions at home. Make no mistake, though; this is not a mystery thriller. Instead, the movie focuses on the day-to-day interpersonal minutia of Cleo’s life. Dealing with the family’s kids, her romantic endeavors and navigating everyday life during the Mexican Dirty War, an extension of the Cold War.
Roma is an immaculately detailed film. Each scene is filled with extraneous detail that gives extra context to those audience members keen enough to pick it up. The style of the film is naturalistic and grounded; however, it explores themes of memory and recollection, which does cause some parts of the movie to seem confusing. Some shots frame small details as most important aspects of a scene while audiences might want to know more about the narrative implications of that scene. This is a technique director Alfonso Cuarón uses to simulate how people actually remember events in their lives. Certain songs, items and even people can instantly transport you back to a place and time, and Cuarón translates this phenomenon onto film.
Roma’s technical aspects are also exceptional. If you decide to watch this movie at home, please watch it as loudly as possible. The sound mixing and editing is remarkably detailed, just like the visual aspects of the film. Dogs bark and engines roar yards off-screen but they all sound so real and as though you could place them around you geographically.
Roma does struggle with pacing and can often feel sluggish and slow; however, this is in service to the sense of normal everyday life that Cuarón is trying to portray, so it’s hard to fault it for this alone. It can also be difficult to fully understand the story without any prior knowledge of the Cold War, and specifically, the Mexican conflict resulting from American and Soviet Union tensions.
Roma is an achievement in filmmaking and deserves to be viewed on the largest screen and loudest system you can find, and is currently available to stream free with a Netflix subscription.