By: Henry J. Fromage (A Toast) –
Netflix has been trying to get into the serious Oscar category game for several years now, but barring some truly epic industry backlash, 2018 will be know as the year that they finally broke down the door, and Alfonso Cuaron’s elegiac, no-doubt-about-it masterpiece will be the battering ram.
Roma follows the everyday life of a well-off Mexico City family and their live-in maid Cleo (Yalitza Aparicio) as they weather changing times and terrible choices in menfolk.
Much has been made of this being Cuaron’s passion project, and none of it is overblown. Never before, or at least not since Y Tu Mama Tambien, has he put so much of himself into a project, and the results are spectacular. The seed for making a film back in his native Mexico was planted by a comment from Cannes director Thierry Frémaux, and he took it to heart, writing a story set in what is ostensibly his own 1970s Mexico City childhood, and centered on a remarkable person who must have been an extremely formative influence on his life- his family’s maid, and cast her after a nationwide search with a schoolteacher and first-time actress in the astonishingly genuine Aparicio. When longtime DP Emmanuel Lubezki couldn’t lens the film due to conflicts, with only one TV episode under his belt, he took on that responsibility as well (and serves as his own editor). It’s a wonder he didn’t score the thing himself, too.
The end product is a heart-breakingly personal work of art that transcends anything he’s yet done. Somehow he out-shoots the best cinematographer of our generation, black and white camera hovering and gliding through the streets and hallways and history of his childhood and of Cleo’s at turns wonderful and tragic life, and what emerges from the low angles and long takes is such a loving and empathetic portrait you can’t but stand in awe of what a true artist can do working purely from the heart. He, and Aparicio, and the rest of the cast and crew standing in support of them bare their souls, and the love and understanding that are displayed onscreen as a result are as fine an experience as the cinema has to offer.
I’ll put this simply, Roma is the only film that I saw this year that I can confidently put forward as a film destined for remembrance and posterity.
Roma (2018) Drinking Game
Take a Drink: anytime an airplane flies over
Take a Drink: every time a car pulls into the garage/driveway (garway? drivage?)
Take a Drink: whenever the father’s philandering is referenced/shown
Do a Shot: for every encounter with the shithole boyfriend
Do a Shot: for baby crib shopping