2018 TELLURIDE FILM FESTIVAL: Six-time Academy Award nominee, Alfonso Cuarón, delivers what is certainly his most intimate film to date with “Roma.” The Mexican-born filmmaker has been working on this passion-project for over a decade, as his screenplay began development in 2006. It is his first movie since “Gravity” in 2013, for which Cuarón won Academy Awards for Best Directing and Best Film Editing (the latter shared with Mark Sanger). Following Cannes’ decision not to allow films produced for streaming services to participate in their festival – something the auteur strongly protested – Cuarón joined forces with Netflix to distribute “Roma.”
Prior to the screening, the Telluride powers-that-be provided us with a tribute to Cuarón. The clip reel focused primarily on “Y Tu Mamá También” (2001), “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban” (2004), “Children of Men” (2006), and “Gravity” (2013). Cuarón spoke affectionately of his friendship with Guillermo del Toro, and how they collaborate on just about everything. Cuarón joked about how he even needs del Toro’s insight prior to deciding what he will have for breakfast each day. His love and respect for del Toro was palpable. He then spoke of how the pair developed into “The Three Amigos” when Alejandro G. Iñárritu became a close friend. The trio has since taken home four of the last five Best Director Oscars.
With “Roma,” Cuarón takes us into his childhood home in Mexico. He spoke of the long journey to bring the film to the screen, and was thankful for the circumstances that delayed him from making the film “too soon.” He looks back, now, distinctly thankful that he had the chance to mature and marinate in his own history. His growth in that time has allowed Cuarón to make a much more poignant film about the woman who raised him, whom he loves wholeheartedly. Cuarón quipped about the fact that he was the only one on set to have the screenplay, which made filming “Roma” more of an organic experience for the director, his cast, and his crew.
While the stars of the film are hardly household names, Yalitza Aparicio gives a heartrending depiction of Cleo, Cuarón’s beloved nanny/housekeeper, a performance more than worthy of the Academy’s recognition. Aparicio and co-star Marina de Tavira were both on hand to help Cuarón present the film.
To say “Roma” is Cuarón’s passion-project might sound cliched, but in fact it might be a vast understatement. Aside from writing, directing, and producing the film, Cuarón also did his own editing (with Adam Gough) and cinematography. He shot the movie in an exquisitely stark black and white, on digital 65-millimeter film with no grain. He spoke about how this decision would give “Roma” a modern filmmaking approach to depicting the past. This is Cuarón’s eighth feature film and first effort in the Spanish language since 2001’s “Y Tu Mamá También.”
“Roma” is a deeply felt, nostalgic timepiece for Cuarón. He is meticulous with each gorgeous frame, sometimes to the detriment of the film. It is a beautiful film that perhaps runs a tad long, but even that might be nitpicking his outstanding achievement. Cuarón is a masterclass auteur, and “Roma” is bravura filmmaking that is fully realized and satisfying.