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MOVIES: (LFF 2018) Roma - Review

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One of the biggest disappointments of the year is that Alfonso Cuarón's Roma is going straight to Netflix, because it's a film that deserves to be seen on the biggest screen possible. Every shot is absolutely gorgeous, especially when you consider that he also is the cinematographer for this film as well as the writer and director, and as a result it doubles as a true work of art, with every frame being worthy of a presence in a museum. There are few better looking films than this, and I shouldn't need to tell you that it's hands down, the most visually stunning film of the year so far.

The film itself follows two domestic workers who work for a family of four, exploring their own problems as well as the family's. It's a slice of life story that feels incredibly depressing to watch, and is especially harrowing to sit through in one sitting. Yet it is instinctively rewarding, not only echoing but standing up to the likes of Fellini and Ozu in terms of its look and feel. The way the story balances the characters, focusing mainly on Yalitza Aparicio's Cleo, is almost unparalleled, as we get to know each and every main character really well. It's hard not to marvel just how realistic this family feels, with all their ups and downs that come over the course of the film. When you learn that Cuarón based the characters on memories of his younger life it explains the authenticity of how things progress.

Mexico City is gorgeously brought to life in this film which captures the streets, houses and landscape like few films have done before. It feels lively and lived in, feeling like a snapshot in time to the era that it's set in, focusing first on 1970 and then 1971. Some of the most exciting moments of Roma happen in the background of the screen, as the student protests which erupt into a riot happen off screen, as the focus is always on the family and the two domestic workers. The film does leave the close quarters of Mexico City behind true, for excursions both deep into the forest and on the beach as well as elsewhere, but the City is always looming large over the film and its daunting presence certainly leaves a mark.

It becomes clear pretty quickly that this is a character driven narrative over a plot-heavy one, and Roma shines because of that. It's sprawling, paying attention to both the characters' flaws and strengths, and never once shies away from making them as human as possible. We never cut away from events that are happening when they directly affect our main characters, no matter how brutal they are, so we always get this unflinching, uncompromising and incredibly honest feel to the film.

Yalitza Aparacio is a star, and she really proves to be a memorable lead, showing so much despite rarely saying anything. The focus on a domestic worker rather than an actual member of the household was a good choice, as it allows us to get an outsider's look at the family. The subtlety of how Cuarón handles this is something to be marvelled, as the dialogue never really feels forced at all. Everything from the smallest detail to the biggest set-piece is handled with intricate detail, and everything comes together to make Roma look and feel like a true masterpiece in every sense of the word. It might just be Cuarón's best film yet.

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