With Oscars season in full swing, it’s common knowledge that quite a lot of really good movies are currently being released. One of these really good movies that have been released, is a Netflix special. Roma directed by Alfonso Cuaron has quickly risen to the top of everyone’s list of films to watch, and it also won three Oscars at this year’s Academy Awards. However, is it deserving of any of them?
Roma follows a family and their maid in 1970s Mexico, showing the hardships faced by this little group of people as well as the country they live in. It’s all in black and white and varies between Spanish and Mixtec, giving the audience a true, authentic feel of the life that these characters are living. It’s also based upon the life of Cuaron’s nanny when he was a child, which elevates the story so much more.
It’s a possibility that no Netflix movie has been, or ever will be, as beautiful as Roma. With rugged, sweeping outdoor shots, and metropolitan, urban shots, the contrast between the various landscapes of Mexico is not lost on the eye of native director/writer/producer/cinematographer/editor Cuaron, who highlights his roots through his long shots. Somehow, the landscapes are just as beautiful in black and white, dotted with candles or immaculately detailed, down to the last movie poster hanging on a wall. It is easy to see that this movie was a labour of love, rather than just another film to add to his credit.
The acting itself is sublime. Yalitza Aparicio, a newcomer to the screen, plays the role of Cleo the maid perfectly. It’s filled with the naivety of youth, practically bursting at the seams with tenderness, and has a sadness that you can’t quite put your finger on, but it lingers. You feel her emotions, you see her perspective. You understand her. She’s a one in a million character and there is a reason she has garnered an Oscar nomination from it.
The family itself is also beautifully cast. Each one of those kids is special, bringing a whole new layer to the family dynamic. It feels like you’re spying in on an actual family house, watching from the corner. The mother, Sofia (Marina de Tavira) is equally as talented. Her portrayal of a mother who is stretched way too thin, trying to make ends meet, trying to cover up her heartache, is heartbreaking and raw. It feels real. This entire movie is brilliant at making you feel like it’s actually happening.
The actual storyline of this movie is very simple. Not a lot happens, but what does happen is like a punch to the gut: every single one of your senses lights up at once, whether you’re feeling anger, happiness or pure sadness. It is written in such a way that the characters just sound as though they are chatting with each other. There is no implication that a script might be there at all; every reaction is real and it is believable.
It’s rare that a movie can ever make such an all-encompassing world in just two hours, but Roma does it in the opening credits. From the offset, it throws you into the world of Cleo, with soapy water running over cobblestones and a scrubbing brush scouring away in the background. You immediately settle into this world, because it doesn’t feel too far away from your own. It’s familiar, and that’s what hits home.
Without gushing too much over the wonder that is this movie, it becomes even more impressive when Alfonso Cuaron took on so many roles himself. Not a corner was cut, either: each shot is perfect and needs to be there. It can come across as slightly pretentious at times (the frequent shots of aeroplanes are the main culprit of this) but it doesn’t detract from the masterpiece of the movie. From the violent and the heartwrenching shots to the truly beautiful and happy ones, Cuaron doesn’t lose steam. He knew exactly what he wanted to do, and it shows.
This movie is easily one of the best on Netflix. Roma is one of those rare films that capture moments that seem natural, not orchestrated. It deserves to win every single Oscar it is nominated for.