By Angel Ortega Roma is one of the most emotionally intense films of the year with its minimalistic artistic style and strong female lead. Roma, directed by Alfonso Cuarón, centers around the life of a middle-class family’s maid, Cleo (Yalitza Aparicio) who lives in the Colonia Roma neighborhood of Mexico City. As Cleo begins to find her place in society and come to terms with her own identity, she must face and overcome many obstacles, both in her personal life and within a politically-torn Mexico in the 1970s. Less is more with Roma. Cuarón is a visionary director who isn’t afraid to experiment with new filmmaking techniques. With films such as Gravity and Children of Men under his belt, to see him use a much more minimalistic approach with Roma was a surprise. However, Cuarón’s artistic style in this film paid off. Color schemes in film help determine and establish a certain atmosphere and mood in a film. But the use of black and white cinematography, and lack of a color scheme, was cleverly utilized to deliver a poignant tone that would reside in the film for the duration of its run time.
Cuarón’s use of single-take, still camera shots not only helped to establish the tone of the film but also helped create and show the environment and the world of the characters for the audience to see and experience.
Musical scores help establish mood and the atmosphere of a film. Yet, not only is there no musical score, there’s no musical score that accompanies the film. Almost all the sound in the Roma is diegetic sound, sound whose source comes from within the world of the film.
The lack of a musical score isn’t a flaw. If anything, the lack of music in Roma helps further drive and create the melancholic world that Cuarón had envisioned for this film.
The other driving force of this film, on top of Cuarón’s artistic style and direction, is Aparicio’s performance as Cleo.
Recently there has been a surge of films with strong female leads. Whether its Frances McDormand in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, Brie Larson in Room or Natalie Portman in Jackie, this new trend is certainly for the better, and Aparicio’s performance most definitely contributes to the progression of representation of strong women in film.
Aparicio delivers such a heart-wrenching performance with Cleo. The amount of struggle in Cleo’s life is representative of the life of working-class women in Mexico.
What’s most impressive about Aparicio’s performance in Roma is that she carried and demonstrated so much vigor and charm into her character that one would think she had been acting for years.
Cleo was Aparicio’s first ever role in any film and prior to the shooting of Roma, she had never considered a career in acting. To see Aparicio portray a character with lots of emotional depth shows how much natural talent she has.
Time and time again, Cuarón has proven to be one of the top directors in the world. His artistic style, as well as Aparicio’s stellar performance, makes Roma one of the best films of the year and a significant moment in Mexican cinema.
Roma received 10 nominations at this year’s Academy Awards, the most nominations along with Yorgos Lanthimos’ The Favourite, and received three Academy Awards including Best Director, Best Foreign Language Film and Best Cinematography.
Aparicio and Marina de Tavira both received Best Leading Actress and Best Supporting Actress nominations, respectively. Roma also received nominations for Best Picture, Best Editing and Best Sound Editing, among others.
Cuarón received his second Best Director award, his first being for his 2013 film, Gravity.
With Cuarón’s victory, five of the last six Best Director winners have been Mexican nationals. Cuarón won in 2014 for Gravity, Alejandro Gonzáles Iñárritu won in 2015 and 2016 for Birdman and The Revenant, respectively, Guillermo Del Toro won in 2018 for The Shape of Water and, Cuarón won this year for Roma.