There’s a good reason that movie critics never really give something 5 stars, or a 10/10. Well, maybe a couple reasons. For one, I think any intelligent critic recognizes the incredibly subjective nature of reviewing movies or any other artform. At a certain point it’s just impossible to quantify a movie’s emotional impact, or how it will strike any given viewer. Assigning numbers or grades to a movie also makes it feel a bit too much like a competition.
The second reason is that a perfect score needs to be saved for truly special films, ones so technically proficient, emotionally meaningful, and culturally impactful that they become immediate classics. Often, these kinds of movies come years apart, maybe even decades. That perfect score needs to mean something, and so it can’t just be passed out every other week.
And to be honest, it is pretty rare that a movie is able to feel effortlessly timeless. That takes real skill (and a lot of luck), not only from the director, writer, and producers, but from absolutely everyone on set, down to the last lonely grip and camera operator, every background extra and trained animal.
I won’t say that Alfonso Cuaron’s ‘Roma’ is perfect. That word doesn’t really address the situation here. Instead, I’ll say that ‘Roma’ means more to me than anything I’ve seen in a very long time.
This is the kind of movie that film buffs live for; it’s our Miracle on Ice, our Moon Landing. It’s a reminder of why we got into this occasionally embarrassing hobby in the first place. It validates all those ignorantly optimistic beliefs we’ve had deep down all along, namely that movies can be genuinely moving and important and inspire humans to improve themselves and fight for the fair treatment of themselves and others. Movies like this provide justification for the many hours we’ve spent watching very bad movies, wishing they were better, or that they made us feel anything at all.
My first watch of ‘Roma’ was a literal one. I followed the astounding visuals through a heartbreaking surface story. I admired it, nothing more. Hours later, I realized that I couldn’t get myself to think of anything else. The visuals lingered in my mind, and suddenly, during an internal replay of a particular scene, I finally caught on. I finally tapped into the heavy allegory surrounding the entire story. Suffice it to say that we’re talking about Orwell-level metaphorical content here, with immensely meaningful visuals and dialogue that rivals that of Kubrick (yeah, I said it). This is to say that the deeper levels of this movie are extremely accessible and inviting. I was never once bludgeoned with a “message” or obvious moral. In contrast, even the powerful subtext and visual symbolism is delicate and ingeniously subtle.
And while I realize that not everyone enjoys this kind of highly metaphorical/allegorical storytelling, I sure do. You could even say it’s my favorite. The day after my initial Netflix viewing, I went to a theater out of town, sitting in the front row for Round Two with this 2 hour 15 minute monster. (The fact that anything was able of getting me out of the house should be an endorsement on its own.)
It’s a swan song for an entire country, for an entire people. Somehow, this movie has a soul, and it shows it off proudly, as it should. After all, this miracle has only happened about 5 or 6 times since the invention of the film camera. It’s not supposed to happen this way. Movies aren’t supposed to look or sound this good, mean this much. And best of all, it’s just a few clicks away from this very article.
‘Roma’ is a rare chance to see a new myth in its infancy, a meaningful story that will outlive us all.