Written and directed by Alfonso Cuarón, Roma follows a 1970s housemaid (Yalitza Aparicio’s Cleo) in Mexico City as she copes with her employers’ crumbling marriage and problems within her own personal life. Cuarón delivers an exceedingly deliberate and subdued slice-of-life narrative that is, especially in its early goings, not quite the engrossing experience the helmer has presumably intended, as Roma‘s lackadaisical, observational atmosphere paves the way for an erratically-paced first half that’s rife with padded-out sequences and interludes (eg the aforementioned family’s patriarch carefully parks his car). It’s worth noting, however, that the picture remains watchable even through its more overtly uneventful stretches, with Cuarón’s meticulous visuals and, in particular, Aparicio’s increasingly sympathetic turn as the central character going a long way towards cultivating a vibe of impressive (and palpable) authenticity. The meandering bent of Cuarón’s screenplay becomes moot as Roma enters its progressively engrossing and emotional second half, as the film is, beyond a certain point, dominated by electrifying set-pieces, including a breathtaking riot and a heartbreaking childbirth, that lead into an unexpectedly powerful third act – which, although Cuarón doesn’t quite stick the landing (ie the picture should’ve ended about five minutes earlier), confirms Roma‘s place as a masterful endeavor from a seriously talented filmmaker.

***1/2 out of ****

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