Length: 135 minutes / 2.25 hours
Don’t get me wrong. I like Alfonso Cuarón’s films. I liked his films before I even really knew who he was as a director. If anything, he’s shown that he’s the master of cinematography, especially in long takes that seem to pan through almost the entire film. He first showed this talent in Children of Men (2006) and continued to impress with this technique in Gravity (2013). While he’s shown he has mastered the long take, his signature style is still on display in Roma (2018) through its numerous pans. That being said, I found the content of Children of Men and Gravity to be much more interesting than that of Roma.
Cuarón pulls us into his Mexican roots in this film, choosing the early 1970s to set this “slice of life” tale. The problem is, while the film looks quite artistic, with the black-and-white aesthetic fusing nicely with the expert camera work (along with that weird costumed singer bit near the middle), there isn’t much substance there. Put in another way: I didn’t care for the characters. In Children of Men, humanity’s survival is on the line. In Gravity, the impetus to return to Earth safely drives the story. In Roma, events just happen, and life goes on.
I understand that there are some broader themes likely present in Roma, but I didn’t particularly care about them, either. Perhaps it was the simplicity of its presentation that failed to grab my attention. Sure, I liked the little visual setups that led to somewhat amusing changes later on in the film. However, these felt more like a famous comedian winking at the audience without saying a word and expecting everyone to laugh. Perhaps I’m just not close enough to the culture represented here, but I didn’t particularly care for this movie, and I instead look forward to whatever Cuarón’s next project might be.
An artistic film that uses Cuarón’s talents to say very little, I give Roma 3.0 stars out of 5.