2019 Film Reviews – 4: Roma [dir. Alfonso Cuarón; 2018]

I suppose we should be grateful that the rise and rise of Netflix – and the consequent absence of most of its films at our cinemas – has coincided with significant improvements in home viewing technology. If nothing else, Alfonso Cuarón’s Roma was a superb workout for the speed of my broadband connection and, more importantly, for the Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos capabilities of my home theatre system. Indeed, one of the many pleasures of this masterful piece of work comes from its extraordinary sound design, shifting and arranging everything from birdsong, to plane engines and street sounds to conjure an aural landscape that is the very definition of ‘immersive’. However, Roma is much more than a technological achievement. Through gently observed details, naturalistic performances and tender set-pieces that are allowed to play out at their own pace, it builds an absorbing – and ultimately moving – portrait of loss, affection and change, as seen in the story of a maid working for an affluent Mexican family in the early 1970s. Many of Cuarón’s previous efforts have disappointed me either with their needless portentousness or their overtly crowd-pleasing qualities. And it has to be said that he’s indulged in a few moments of broadness here too. But ultimately, what is most remarkable about Roma is that it is a coherent world unto itself. And peering into its workings feels like a rare privilege.

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