For my birthday, I got to watch ROMA, the final Best Picture nominee for the Academy Awards, and the winner in the Best Foreign Language category.
I saw it at Proctors in Schenectady. To my surprise, there is an 80-seat cinema on the third floor. Since it was a weekday, there were only about a dozen other folks present.
By the end of the film, I better understood some of the choices that took place earlier, such as the lengthy floor washing that opened the film. But not all of it.
Clearly it was autobiographical, set in 1970/1971 Mexico City. Alfonso Cuarón talks about this in the brief the Meaning of Memory, which explains that ROMA is “organic” and flows with a rhythm of its own.
You know how it is when you first watch a film and it takes a few minutes to acclimate yourself to the characters and story? For me, this movie took about 50 minutes of the 135-minute running time to get there. Payoff, yes, but not quite enough.
I found snippets of three reviewers, who gave ROMA positive reviews that speaks to my dissatisfaction.
“An incidental thread that serves as an excuse for the director to capture on screen an amalgam of memories and a veritable whirlwind of sensations on the surface.”
These things apparently happened the director, but it isn’t always clear why WE should care.
“ROMA is in a league of its own in terms of sheer cinematic ambition and prowess, but as a drama it’s not as deeply moving as some of this year’s very best.”
“Cuaron is a bit too close to the material, and most moviegoers will have to do a lot of research to truly get and appreciate the movie.” (Grace Randolph, Beyond the Trailer)
See, I don’t WANT to do research to GET the movie. I shouldn’t need to understand the context of the domestic troubles in Mexico to understand the significance of a fire or of shooting off guns. I want the movie to explain it.
I must say that I very much loved the youngest boy and his preternatural view of the world, and did care about the core family by the end. But it wasn’t my favorite of the films, and it wouldn’t have even been my foreign film pick, as I preferred Cold War.