“Roma” is an Alfonso Cuaron movie from start to finish, produced by Netflix, with limited theater runs. Cuaron wrote & directed it, but also was the DP and editor for it, maybe because it was such a personal story for him. The movie is about his youth, and more importantly, about his caretaker, Cleo, who is part maid, part nanny. The action happens in Mexico City, in a neighborhood called Roma, although he never directly references that (I learned that from other articles).
One of the first things you need to know about “Roma” is that this movie is not for everyone. Actually, I’m pretty sure 70-80% of people will get bored after 15-20 minutes and stop it. It’s a dry film and hard to “swallow”, because first of all, it’s black and white. Second, it has no soundtrack (with the exception of few songs you hear in the radio or TV). There’s also the fact that the story is pretty boring and no major plot points happen until act three. And when they do happen, it’s very subdued and you feel like you’re miles away from it.
I think that’s one of the reasons why most people don’t like it. The main character is very closed off and shy, so you can’t understand her enough to actually care for her. The only glimpse of inner turmoil you see in her are in the final two-three scenes. And if you reach that, then you are going to understand her better and you will be finally able to be emotionally invested in her story. But it takes a damn long time.
That being said, when you do reach the end, it will give you the satisfaction you were searching for. You finally understand what Cleo has been going through in the last two hours of the film and you see that her adopted family loves her and cherishes her, and she doesn’t need anything else. Those last few scenes made me very emotional and I finally got why people loved this movie. In the end, it pays off.
In terms of film making, it’s a interesting case study. The black and white worked in favor in this movie, I don’t think it would have had the same impact in color. The no soundtrack part, I didn’t even notice it until I saw it mentioned in an article, but it definitely contributed to the dryness of the film. I noticed a lot of 360 views, broad, pan-like, which bothered me after a while because it took me out of the zone (if felt like a music video somehow). It’s a different way of directing a movie, and I’m not sure yet if I like it.
So, is Roma worth it? Well, it depends. If you’re looking for instant gratification and have limited patience, Roma is definitely not for you. But if you enjoy art-house films, slow films, if you like character development and interesting film making, you will love Roma. Personally, I’m somewhere in the middle. I liked it, but I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone. And I don’t think it should get Best Movie awards.