2018 has been releasing some highly anticipated and very good movies. And when I say good, I mean very praised and publicized – apart from the Johnny English nonsense and overrated horror movies like The Nun, of course. No, we are talking real cinema with a IMDb rating higher than 8. When I heard about Alfonso Cuarón’s up and coming movie Roma, I was excited for two reasons: 1) I love Mexican cinema, and 2) It’s Alfonso Cuarón. Lovers of Mexican cinema and high school girls who used to have a crush on Gael García Bernal and Diego Luna in Y Tu Mamá También will know what I’m talking about. Or if you liked Gravity with Sandra Bullock.
Before I hit play on Netflix, I ran a quick research on Roma just to set my expectations and know what to expect. The sky high 8.6 rating on IMDb (yes, IMDb is my Bible) got me way too excited – maybe more than necessary. I definitely loved the idea behind the story and I was curious about a 2018 black and white movie. I don’t know if it’s just me who is being ignorant but isn’t this the first movie in ages to be produced in black and white?
Roma is the story of Cleo, a young maid who works for an upper class family in Mexico City in the 70’s. She is very loved by the entire family, especially the children. We follow her life for a year where we witness her tragic pregnancy and the aftermath of a stillbirth. We see how young girls have to leave everything behind just to make a living in the big city, working for rich families and how they cope with it.
Before you start attacking me for this flawed description of the storyline itself, I have to defend myself and say that it’s simply because the plot was so forgettable that it almost hurts. I honestly don’t think that I’ve seen such an empty movie in ages – there is no story. Now, I know that Cleo’s story represents so many stories from 70’s Mexico (and probably even now) but we never even get to know her. On the other hand, isn’t that the story of most people just in a more metaphorical way? No, thank God, many people don’t get to experience unwanted pregnancy that results in a stillbirth (those scenes scarred me for life, by the way), many people don’t get dumped by a boyfriend who turns into a murderer, etc. But I could’ve hired a cameraman to follow me for a year and the result and the eventual reaction would’ve been the same; “so what?”.
Cuarón could have told Cleo’s story in so many better ways. Indigenous people have been working for many Mexicans with European descent for many years and I just wish that relation was shown more clearly. I would have loved to see Cleo’s background, the reasons behind her extreme shyness, and how she deals with the curveballs that life is throwing at her because there is no doubt that she is an amazing person.
To prove that I’m not a ghoul who hates everything that I don’t understand, I have to say that, despite the hollowness, something about Roma intrigues me. Maybe the flawless cinematography that is so detailed that it simply stuns you. I enjoyed this movie so much visually – as I said, not many movies are made in black and white recently, and it turns out that it is more interesting to watch than you’d think. Although the scenes can get so long that you get desperate, you enjoy them because they’re so detailed. The camera work is the closest you will get to cinematic perfection and I always applaud creativity and thinking outside of the box.
Honestly, I don’t understand the overall hype about Roma. Mexican cinema has given us so many movies and actors throughout the years that I can’t help but compare Roma with gems like Amores Perros or Babel. However, Cuarón is definitely in González-Iñárritu’s and Guillermo del Toro’s league when it comes to quality, which increases the hype further. Roma is a visually beautiful movie with scenes and cinematography that will swoon you but the lack of story, conversations and depth makes it a big disappointment. It won’t have much competition this award season and people seem to love it, so I can already see Cuarón on stage at the Oscar’s delivering his speech. I don’t know how to recommend this movie because I can’t figure out who the target audience is, I can only say that it’s not for everyone but if you’re curious, give it a go. I’d love to hear everyone’s opinion! So please watch it and let me know what I missed because I’m eager to understand this movie.