21 December 2018 | evanston_dad
Already Want to See It Again
I already want to see "Roma" again.
It took me a good while to settle into the rhythms of Alfonso Cuaron's critically acclaimed new film, and by the time I did I wanted to go back and start it over to see what I might have missed. A lot comes at the viewer in "Roma," and it's hard to take it all in on a first viewing. No...that's the wrong way to put it. Nothing comes at you -- you have to go after it. That's what makes "Roma" unique. Cuaron crams his frame in any given scene with tons of movement and sound, but he shoots almost everything in medium and long shots and chooses to pan his camera rather than insert a lot of edits. The result is you have to decide what you want to look at, and while the main protagonist is in virtually every scene, she's not always necessarily the focal point.
That protagonist, by the way, is Cleo, maid to a wealthy family and played in a quiet and quietly devastating performance by Yalitza Aparicio. "Roma" is an episodic assemblage of scenes that shows what life is like for Cleo, without big showy emotional moments or much editorializing. She's treated fairly well by the family she works for, but make no mistake -- they rarely let her forget she's their employee. The film is a lot about privilege. The family treats Cleo as one of their own when they feel like it or when it's convenient to, but don't when it's not. She's part of their most intimate moments and they her's, but she'll never really be one of them. She has much to take care of, but nothing of her own to really care for. And there's a big wide world out there, the movie makes clear, that will never include people like Cleo.
For a while I was a little disappointed that I wasn't feeling "Roma" as much as I wanted to and as much as rapturous reviews led me to believe I would. I was engaged by it, but I didn't feel heavily involved emotionally. But then pretty far into the movie something happens to Cleo, and in that moment I realized how invested I was in how things turned out for her. "Roma" sneaks up on you in that way.