Roma (2018)

Content by Tony Macklin. Originally published on December 14, 2018 @ tonymacklin.net.

Every year there is one film that reviewers go "gaga" over.

I just go "ga."

This year's gaga film is Roma. It has received almost 100% ecstatic affirmation from reviewers. But I'm not with them.

In kindergarten I was the only child who refused to skip. Maybe I lack the skipping gene. I lack something.

Roma is a personal film influenced by Mexican writer/director Alfonso Cuaron's childhood. It focuses on the experiences of a nanny (Yalitza Aparico) who is one of two maids for a family in Mexico City. The fictionalized family has a wayward father, an erratic mother, and four children.

The nanny Cleo is part of the family, and in Roma we share her day-to-day life and labors.

For much of its length - and certainly its first 60 minutes - Roma is a testament to tedium. Cuaron sees poetry in the mundane. He sees meaning in the irrelevant.

Roma has some emotional scenes - e.g., in a hospital and at the seaside. But they are few and far between.

I think the mass audience that reviewers serve will not agree with the raves. Boredom may intercede. Perhaps, Roma is a niche film, for an art house audience. But reviewers sound a clarion call for everyone. My review is simply a warning.

Cuaron is a stylist. Amidst the clutter in Roma, are symbols, especially water, symbolizing life.

Roma opens with footage of water washing an outdoor surface. Later the dog turds of life are washed away or smushed by a tire. Ah, reality. Ah, creativity. Ah, original imagery.

Water abounds. There's water on the windows, hail - drops of frozen water falling to the ground, water washing dishes, and water making tea. In the climactic scene, Cleo wades into churning waves in a life-or-death mission.

Water abounds, but I'm not in the swim of things.

Driving in cars is another constant.

Day-to-day existence dominates Roma.

At the end, Cleo prevails - over laundry.

The acting in Roma is nothing special. In a film replete with non-actors, non-professional Yalitz Aparico has received raves. Yes, her expressionless visage is apt, if not memorable.

Critics and reviewers have often used the word "masterpiece" to rate Roma.

Ann Hornaday called Roma "a great work of art." She is my favorite critic - the one I trust the most. But this time I don't agree.

Roma is distributed by Netflix, which hopes it will be a game changer. They hope to change the movie watching experience. Roma opened at three theaters at Thanksgiving. Weeks later on December 14, it is on their streaming service, at the same time that it's in 600 theaters world-wide.

I agree with those who say Roma should be seen in a theater. Cuaron made it in 65-millimeter. But Netflix hopes it will be seen on its service. They are out to make that the prime movie experience. Many theater chains, realizing the threat of that, have refused to show Roma in their theaters. One might find an irony in that.

Netflix is promoting the hell out of Roma.

Netflix flew reviewers to New York City just to see Roma. Did they serve Kool-Aid on the flight?

One reviewer said they set up a private screening of Roma in a theater for him. I received a large coffee table book of Roma. No, I'm not biting the hand that feeds me. The book remains unopened.

The ultra-enthusiastic critical reaction to Roma reminds me of Boyhood (2014). Reviewers elevated it to heights of glory. It became the odds-on favorite to win the Oscar for Best Picture. [I won money betting on Birdman, which beat Boyhood.]

Boyhood struck me as extremely over-rated. When a boy is dull, he grows up to be dull. Even in Texas.

Ethan Hawke was celebrated for Boyhood. But I much prefer his terrific performance in Born to be Blue (2015). But nobody saw it.

Promotion matters.

Maybe in this age of being Great Again, people yearn to go back and nestle in their youth.

Do Boyhood and Roma satisfy that?

But I still think I don't want to skip.

© 2000-2019 Tony Macklin