Not even Alfonso Cuarón’s ‘Roma’ is immune of one’s parents' pointed criticisms.
For the record, I loved Roma. It’s hands down one of the best films of the year - a heartfelt love-letter by Alfonso Cuarón to the neighborhood he grew up in and the family he still honors. Its cinematography (which you can read about here in a discussion between Cuarón and his longtime friend and collaborator Emmanuel Lubezki) is beautiful and features some of the most powerful sequences of the year.
However, for every filmmaker and film-fan home for the holidays, it appears that not even Alfonso Cuarón’s Roma is safe from the criticism of parents. While I will caveat that I love my parents and grant them the right to their opinions (some of which more founded than others), I will say that if anything, Roma is a great film to spark a lively filmmaking discussion with loved ones over the holidays.
The Slow-Paced Opening
The “problems” with Roma start immediately. Without giving away anything of note, the film opens with one long take that begins with the camera looking down at bricks of concrete. This shot remains static, in black and white, and lasts several minutes as viewers are asked to patiently wait for cinematic clues to develop. It’s a powerful opening, but perhaps better fit for watching in a theater as it caused my parents to both check their phones, re-fill their wine in the kitchen, and bring up long-winded news about the nephews before the shot finally ends.
The Unrealistic Household
In an odd piece of criticism, my parents also had big issues with the house in the film. While Cuarón does a fabulous job of creating a living, breathing household that gives both great spatial awareness and life to its setting, it was also a point of contention for its unrealistic dirtiness. “Why don’t they just pick up the dog poop?” my mom asked several times, quick to point out that they don’t have any live-in maids but are sure to comb the backyard at least once a day for the dog’s “land mines”.
The Morality of Roma
Now, if any criticism is landed though, it is some nuanced issues with the film’s morality and characters. It’s hard to criticize a film based on real life for the events it portrays in the story, but as more time passes to examine it, the characters and the lessons they learn become a little more suspect. Namely, my parents took issue with how Cleo - the housekeeping protagonist - ended her narrative character arc with the realization that she “didn’t need a family of her own, because she already had the Sofía household to take care of.”
I’d argue that Cleo’s journey was much greater than its summation with the beach hug at the end, but it is interesting to look at how - for many viewers - a film is only as good as its morality and the lessons taught within.
For anyone else watching movies with your families over the holidays - and if you aren’t watching Die Hard for the 50th time, which IS A CHRISTMAS movie - would be curious on your thoughts on Roma and how others in your life reacted to it as well.