Venice 2018

First Days, First Impressions

Alfonso Cuarón’s Roma (2018)

When the seventy-fifth Venice Film Festival opened last week, jury president Guillermo del Toro was asked whether he’d be able to objectively evaluate Roma, the competition entry from his dear friend and Mexican compatriot, Alfonso Cuarón. Del Toro, who won the festival’s top prize, the Golden Lion, last year for The Shape of Water, insisted that, yes, he would. “I am an adult,” he replied. “I am a professional.” And referring to his fellow jury members, he added that “there is great agreement among us that it doesn’t matter if a movie comes from Australia or Mexico.”

One wonders whether maintaining that professional objectivity will be made any easier—or harder—by the fact that, halfway through this year’s edition, Roma is garnering more glowing reviews than any other film screened in competition so far. Or the fact that this is clearly Cuarón’s most personal film to date. “Ninety percent of the scenes that you see in the film come out of my memory,” he tells Deadline’s Joe Utichi. He’s also shot the black-and-white film himself, “as though even his symbiotic connection to erstwhile cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki would not have allowed him to get as close as he needed,” suggests Jessica Kiang at the Playlist.

Roma, named for the neighborhood just west of the historic center of Mexico City, centers on a large middle-class family as seen through the eyes of their maid and nanny. Jonathan Romney, dispatching to Film Comment, finds that the film “achieves a sense of closeness and of the intensely human while using resources that are, by conventional art cinema standards, imposingly expansive. Roma catches both ends of a certain realist spectrum: a sense of historic sweep, as the film reconstructs social conditions in Mexico in the early ’70s, and an insight into the private domestic sphere.”

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