MatteoWouters’s review published on Letterboxd:
I was gonna have my annual rewatch of Roma this month so I figured I’d rewatch this as well.
This film is so special to me in so many ways. First of all, I particularly love films that use sex as a way to smartly develop characters and their relationships: it’s an instinct that we as humans can instantly and easily connect with and, if done in a way that’s smart, genuine and tasteful, it can lead to a really special experience for a film (as to why I love films like Boogie Nights or, in some ways, Call Me by Your Name so much for this reason). This film is probably the best example of this that I can think of: it’s very “explicit” regarding its sexual nature, both visually and dialogue-wise, and there’s quite a few full-on “sex scenes”, but each one of them serves to develop the main characters and their dynamic, and the way this development is done for all three characters is very subtle and honestly brilliant.
Before delving more into its themes, characters and story though, I do have to at least mention this film’s visual aspect. The cinematography especially is absolutely fantastic, with Emmanuel Lubezki showing once again why he’s one of the most talented people currently living, not only through its shot composition but also with the way the camera moves within every scene: it has a very omniscient quality to it, with plenty of great long takes as usual with Cuaron, which complements the narrative (told by an unknown, third-person narrator) incredibly well. Speaking of, the narration is one of the many layers found in this film’s story and characters: initially its use might seem a bit jarring on first viewing, but as soon as you get used to it it adds to the film tremendously imo, giving a lot of context not only to the characters but also to the state of the country at the time, and I don’t really wanna spoil how this relates to the main development of the story so I’ll just say that it is, once again, incredibly subtle and very brilliant.
The way the three main characters are developed through this “road trip” together is very subtle and something that you almost don’t obviously notice until the very end, but is ultimately heartbreaking: the last scene genuinely hits you like a speeding train even though subconsciously it’s not that big of a surprise, since the film carefully developed these characters and their relationship over its runtime, and it all makes sense on an emotional level. The way this film conveys information about its characters is just so so smart and I cannot stress that enough, and is probably the main reason why I love it so much. All of them are clearly defined and their dynamic is incredibly entertaining, pretty much carrying the film on its own and making for so many incredibly tense sequences oddly enough (the “bedroom confrontation” in the middle between Julio and Tenoch is probably the best example of this), with the dialogue being very well-written and them being incredibly well-acted, and I gotta command the actors not only for selling their characters and pretty much carrying the story’s development forward but also for clearly caring about these characters to the point of filming scenes that could potentially make many actors uncomfortable. Also wanted to mention the great use of music: it’s done sparingly but when it does it’s so memorable and fitting.
I don’t have much else to say about this film for now but I’m sure I’ll have more to say upon other rewatches, and I’m planning on revisiting it very often in the future and delving more and more into its themes and layers of the story as time goes on. All I’ve got left to say is to go watch it right now if you haven’t, it’s such a great film that I really love and is probably one of my favorite films at this point, and one that I don’t think enough people have seen so I’d highly, highly recommend it.