If you find The Old Man and the Gun slow moving, then Roma will not be for you. Over the course of 135 minutes, Alfonso Cuarón unfolds a story charting the life of a maid and her middle class family over a period of a year in Mexico City in the early 1970s. In age when fast editing to propel a story has become the norm, it is unusual, and refreshing, to see a film unfold in a series of much longer takes.
Not only that but the way that Cuarón’s holds back his camera from the action somehow distances you from the story but also makes you concentrate more on it, so you are gradually, and imperceptibly pulled in. It many ways, it feels like something that a master film maker like Yasujirō Ozu might have presented the audience with 60 years ago or more. Adding to the feeling of it being an instant classic are not only the period setting but Cuarón, taking the dual role of cinematographer and director, shooting it in beautiful wide screen black and white.
At the centre of the story is a terrific performance by Yalitza Aparicio, as Cleo, the maid. In a film that will live long in the memory, there is one sequence when Cleo gets mixed up in the student riots prevalent at the time whilst out shopping for a crib that is easily amongst the most affecting I have seen in a some time. If I have one criticism, it is the decision to have every male character at the very least inconsiderate and annoying to outright evil, and every female character much more rounded and deserving our sympathy. Otherwise, this is a brilliantly executed film, and probably Cuarón’s best work to date.
Rating: 9 out of 10