By MONTE YAZZIE
Art, in whatever form it may take is an expressive medium for the artist. Through the stroke of a paintbrush, the guidance of notes or the manipulation of light, the artistic canvas is a personal space filled with a variety of emotions.
For filmmaker, Alfonso Cuarón, the digital form is utilized to tell tales of discovery, exploration and memory. “Roma” is the director’s newest and most personal film to date; a film so beautifully rendered that it makes the relatively small moments of a young woman working for a family in Mexico City feel grand and sweeping.
Cleo (Yalitza Aparicio) works for and lives with a family in a community outside of Mexico City. Cleo tends to the entire family; helping the children get ready for school in the morning, cleaning the large two-story home during the day, and making sure everyone has everything they need before going to bed in the evening.
On the rare occasion, Cleo is provided time to leave the rigors of tending to the family. She hangs out with a friend, watches a movie in a gorgeous theater and goes on a date with a boy. Still, Cleo is connected to the family she serves. And when the distant and preoccupied father of the family goes on a trip and doesn’t come home, the family dynamic is broken, and things begin to fall apart.
Mr. Cuarón also serves as director of photography and from the first frame of the film he imbues the mundane moments that Cleo consistently and selflessly endures with astonishing black and white scope. Framing the washing of a driveway, the hanging of laundry against the city backdrop, or movement through the sprawling home with a beautiful array of gray, white and black.
The clarity of the images is stunning, and the wide-angle format allows for some exceptional views in and around Mexico City. In one of the most striking moments the camera pans across a field that is on fire, the dance and glow of the flames is completely mesmerizing.
“Roma”, which was also written by Mr. Cuarón, doesn’t flow from scene to scene like other contemporary narratives. Even when it introduces conflict, there is no mystery or excitement to be had.
Instead, it’s practicality and normalcy that is consistently implemented. The fact that sometimes problems need to work themselves out through time and with patience, and even though we may want something solved it may not have a solution.
The film focuses on people instead of plot. Specifically, Cleo who is played by Yalitza Aparicio, a newcomer with no prior acting experience. Mr. Cuarón spends as much time developing this character as he does meticulously composing scenes in the film.
Ms. Aparicio is exceptional in the lead performance, offering a portrayal of strength and resilience amidst a barrage of concerns happening throughout her life. The family dynamic is another element of strength at work here. Once the father leaves, it is up to three women to move the family through the problems presented in front of them.
The way Mr. Cuarón develops these characters creates a strong emotional connection, which arrives somewhat unexpectedly in the third act of the film, but completely encompasses the journey of the characters and the director.
“Roma” is a quiet, meditative and personal film, one that may connect in greater ways to one person than it does to another. But this aspect of “individuality” is the essence of any great artistic vessel. “Roma” proves that Alfonso Cuarón is undeniably one of the greatest auteurs of the twenty-first century.
Director: Alfonso Cuarón
Starring: Yalitza Aparicio, Marina de Tavira, Diego Cortina Autrey, Carlos Peralta, Marco Graf, and Daniela Demesa, and Nancy García García
4.25 out of 5.00