by Daniel Giorello | Staff Writer
In recent years, Netflix has attempted to rebrand itself as not simply as a streaming service, but a bona fide television network for a new generation. This tactic has had mixed results, as their quantity-over-quality approach has led to some fairly forgettable films and TV shows (the films Bright and the more recent Triple Frontier come to mind). However, Roma has proven to be a welcome addition to the platform’s extensive catalogue, albeit for reasons that aren’t immediately obvious.
Set in the politically tumultuous climate of Mexico in the 1970s, Roma follows the story of Cleo, a housekeeper for an upper class family who must help them face one of the most trying periods of their lives. As the circumstances surrounding the family grow increasingly uncertain and even dire at points, Cleo must help her employers cope with the trials they find themselves in, and simultaneously learn to grow from her individual struggles in the process.
It’s important to address that the film is not one that will appeal to all tastes; in fact, Roma prides itself on many of its polarizing qualities, such as a lack of soundtrack and an emphasis on a monochrome color scheme. Even the film’s most intense moments carry a subdued quality that encourage a quiet reflection from the viewer. The transitions between the project’s several chapters aren’t very noticeable up until the conclusion, yet each part provides a unique lens through which to view each of the characters, especially Cleo.
This is not to say that the film is a visual delight to watch the whole time; even halfway through the film I was struggling to understand the necessity of some of the longer story beats and their place within the larger narrative. Expect something more akin to a “fictionalized documentary”: this movie will not allow itself to wash over and instead challenges the viewer to pay attention to the smaller details that guide the story to its conclusion. It’s a satisfying, even tear-jerking conclusion that brings even the most trying aspects of the film full-circle in a way that I definitely shouldn’t spoil here.
FINAL VERDICT: While it’s not an easy film to sit through sometimes, and there are plenty of points where I was more than ready for the film to reach its end, a part of me regretted anticipating a finale that ended up being so moving and powerful. If you have the time and patience, Roma will reward the viewer with a story both believable and stirring in a way few other movies can tell so effectively. 8/10 pinecones for such a pleasantly surprising addition to the Netflix library.