Roma is the eighth directorial feature from Mexican filmmaker Alfonso Cuarón. Also worthy of note is the fact that this is his first feature for which he has sole writing credit. This film has been raved about since its debut at the Venice Film Festival back in August. Even more interesting is that this film is being distributed by Netflix, meaning it will not be getting more than a few days of theatrical play. While I am glad that this means more people will see Roma, I am saddened that a majority of its viewers will not get to share the same special experience that I had viewing this film on the biggest screen possible, with the best sound possible.
Buttery-smooth camera movements, as well as themes of femininity and fertility are ever-present in this film, just as they are in most of Cuarón’s other notable works. This does not make their use contrived. Quite the contrary, his mastery of these many storytelling devices is just as impressive as it has ever been. These are also not the only techniques he has utilized in most everything he’s directed.
All of Cuarón’s films are exquisitely meticulous in their framing and general cinematography. Roma is no different. In short, many of this film’s wondrously beautiful scenes feel as if we are watching a logistical miracle take place. There were many points where I thought that the camera almost did not exist in the artificial environment constructed for this film’s purpose. That’s how realistically Cuarón’s vision of Mexico comes across to the audience.
Even more impressive is the director’s restrained usage of computer-generated effects. Aside from one or two shots, I believe the entire film was practically shot and performed. This is one of the things that take this film to a more impressive level than Cuarón’s most recent feature, Gravity (2013). While that film featured many a technical marvel, the way the camera moves through some of the real environments in Mexico City and the surrounding areas is nothing short of mind-boggling. The first shot of this film had me thinking “how in the hell did they do that?” It certainly would not be the only shot like this in the film, nor the last. The Best Cinematography Oscar seems to be in the bag. I realized this while I was watching a scene close to the end of the film which took place at the beach. Cuarón’s versatility in constructing interesting and visually-stunning shots knows no end, and I am excited to see where he takes some of the techniques he learned in Roma to in subsequent projects. Let’s hope his next feature is not five years away this time.