- The long endearing process of casting can be stringent, but Alfonso Cuarón’s year long process definitely payed off here, as he has found a true diamond in the ruff in Yalitza Aparicio. Who, when going to the films casting call was just tagging along with a friend and had just finished her schooling to become a teacher. But one thing lead to another and Aparicio was ultimately given the lead in Roma. With all that being said, Aparicio gives one of the most intuitive and raw performances of the year. Her mellow compassion as Cleo is one that will fill the heart, as she carries on her daily duties as a maid while balancing her personal life as well. Marina de Tavira as well turns in an aching performance of a mother going through the ringer, and as the film progresses de Tavira only improves in delivering the nuance of the familial process.
- The direction from Alfonso Cuarón is immensely impressive in Roma, as he takes his signature use of long takes to an observational drama. From the mesmerizing opening title sequence you know you’re in for something special, as Cuarón’s mellow tone mixed with a strong quiet tenderness only builds throughout. It becomes increasingly more extraordinary as the film progresses that Cuarón is capturing the mundane in such a Fellini-esque way. But as you reflect on that opening hour, where we are carried through the mundane, you see the subtle marinating that Cuarón was performing was setting you up perfectly for what was to come. It’s his meticulous pacing that sets up each beat so well, as he waits for the film to swell and knock its audience down like a wave. The ghostly fluidity in Cuarón’s camera seamlessly engrosses you to 1970s Mexico City, as we seemingly are watching the ghosts of the past reliving through all their pain and all their pleasures.
- The screenplay from Alfonso Cuarón here is quite great. Cuarón’s writing here is extremely intimate with each familial detail. When describing Roma, Cuarón said, “80 to 90% of this film is pulled from my memory”, and it shows in the pristine detail he has for every family moment. It’s as well the films sociopolitical background that slowly creeps into the films foreground. Which I rather not get into too much and rather you see it for yourself. But it’s in Roma that Alfonso Cuarón creates a fine-grained vision of a woman and a world shaped by a colonialist past that unrelentingly weighs down the present, and it’s through its hypnotic yet demanding fashion that Roma arranges itself as a true masterpiece.
- Alfonso Cuarón as well serves as his own cinematographer here and his work is astonishing. Cuarón delivers a tour de force masterclass in shooting in black and white. His ability of creating images with such incredible clarity, detail and tonality, with entire rainbows of black, white and gray is a true feast for the eyes. He treats the camera very much like our lead character Cleo, often mobile. Often following and anticipating her movements like a faithful companion. Then there are the long one-shot scenes that Cuarón does that are in particularly just mind-blowing. The forest fire one-shot scene and the furniture store one-shot scene are quite possibly the biggest feats in cinematography this year.
- The editing by Cuarón and Adam Gough is great as well, as the film does use a lot of long takes, but it’s when we finally cut that the film draws yet another emotional punch.
- The production design by Eugenio Caballero and the art direction by Carlos Benassini and Oscar Tello is finely detailed. As explained earlier, this film is quite autobiographical, so Alfonso Cuarón gave them the tough task of recreating the entire street and house he grew up in. And with the detail they gave, it played a large part in transporting us to 1970s Mexico City.
- The sound design in the film is some of the most immersive sound design I’ve ever heard. The extreme detail of water dripping, brushes scrubbing and brooms sweeping play yet another factor in the film’s immersive quality.