- Colin Fraser
FOUR AND A HALF STARS Cleo is the nanny to a middle-class Mexican family. Cleo regards them as her own.
ROMA is a love poem written by a man to his childhood. Crafted with love and care, it’s the kind of sumptuous coffee-table book of a film that begs you to immerse yourself in its seductive charms. Alfonso Cuarón (GRAVITY, Y TU MAMÁ TAMBIÉN) is at the peak of his game and in ROMA has delivered a sensational film that should not be ignored. Whether you see it on the glory of a cinema screen or from the comfort of your couch (it’s currently streaming on Netflix), make sure you see it.
Shot in luscious, 65mm silver tone, ROMA pays tribute to Cuarón’s nanny, played with astounding naturalism and heart by newcomer Yalitza Aparicio. It’s an incredible performance that anchors the entire film as the writer/director/cinematographer explores her relationship with his middle-class family. Through social, political and familial ups and downs, it follows Cleo as she takes responsibility for people she’s come to regard as her own.
There is a rose-tinted hue to the black-and-white saga, but one that’s well earned. Here is a film that rewards patience as impressively long takes build a finely detailed picture, not only of Cleo and the family, but all those with whom they interact - in the city, the country, at the office, the market or the beach - each scene building towards a resounding conclusion.
Ultimately, ROMA is a story of two women, Cleo and Cuarón’s mother; both let down by circumstance, both in need of support that the other can offer. It’s a dynamic that enables the director to to explore the people who orbited his childhood, and in particular the women who were as close as any adult could be yet separated by invisible cultural or class barriers. It’s exquisitely touching, and really quite extraordinary.