Truffaut made The 400 Blows, Fellini made Amarcord, and Cuarón has now made Roma. The film was recently released on Netflix but purists can find it in smaller market theaters nationwide, which I encourage everyone to do. As I left my local art house theater, a great sadness came over me. I had just seen a new world classic film. One would think I should be elated. The ecstasy of such an experience was immediate and palpable inside the theater as the audience decided the appropriate moment to rise during the credits; a collective sigh as we sauntered in to the lobby. We initiated an unspoken handshake, born through a glance as the night air wafts over our faces and we melt back into the ether of individuality.
Roma, directed by Alfonso Cuarón, is no mere Oscar frontrunner or critical darling. It is essential viewing for an overexposed society in desperate need to take a breath. Absent are caped crusaders, special effects, and color for the average moviegoer to bask in the warmth of. Those who love Roma will find themselves searching for the words to describe such a wonderful experience so everyone can have the opportunity; beret and cigarette are not required.
The film is without pretentiousness. Its story is simple yet it is about everything. The cinematography, actors, and production follows suit. Roma smacks you in the face and reminds you to wake up. Masters of filmmaking are selective at expounding upon their art for good reason; critics are not. Quite simply, the film is about life. Not the particular lives depicted within, but all of life. Anyone can be its audience. A child may learn adult lessons just as parents might learn lessons of their own. The subtlety of the film’s entertainment value crashes down on you like a secret tidal wave.
I never believed digital filmmaking would achieve this level. Roma made me a true believer. As a film purist, I long for a dark theater filled with the light of a 35mm projector and the quality of an image with a certain type of “grain” to it. Since the dawn of the film vs. digital debate many have taken sides, few have made convincing arguments. A love for digital is far less romantic than a love for film. Cuarón has proven me wrong. Digital cinematography can and will be held to the highest of standards from now on.
If your searching for the Best Picture of the year, look no further than Roma, and then continue your search for movies that recognize film as a true art form. High art can be for the people, from the people. The film delivers dynamic life-changing cinema rarely seen since the French auteurists introduced us to the “film is life” concept of the late 1950s and 1960s. They showed us that films can be about a single dynamic between subject and environment while at the same time existing somewhere between heaven and earth. A flash of lightning can streak across the silver screen, or in this case, “The Black Box”, only to find the audience recalling it later. Tranquility in chaos seems contradictory but is a skill not easily mastered. Alfonso Cuarón is the writer, director, and cinematographer of the best movie in recent memory.
— Nathan Robert Blackburn