Roma is a film about a Mexican family, more specifically about the family’s live-in maid, Cleo (Yalitza Aparicio) and how she gets pregnant from her boyfriend, only to have him leave her right after she tells him about it. Also, the mother and father in the household have marital problems.
That’s more or less ALL the actual plot points of the movie, or at least the only plotlines that are moving in any direction. Instead, the film concentrates more on Cleo and a few of the other family members, and instead chooses to drag out scenes for a very long time. I’d say these scenes distract from the story itself, except that there isn’t much story to be had. I’ll be the first to admit I don’t really get films like this. To me they feel like they’re sacrificing the substance of a film for stylistic scenes and images. Though some of these things feel artistic and gives us a unique experience while watching, by the end of the film, it feels like a very big pretty box with nothing in it. Films, or any media meant for entertainment, need content to fill our brains with, it doesn’t have to be good, it just has to be present. Otherwise, the whole thing feels like a waste of time.
Truthfully, it’s always a bit tough for me to grade a film that feels like it doesn’t really have a point. The things that happen in this film are so random that it makes it feel like nothing happens for any reason other than to drag out the movie. A good example of this is about halfway into this film there’s a forest fire and the whole town gets together and puts it out taking buckets of water to the flames. I mean, stuff like that happens in reality and life is totally random, right? Randomness can be okay sometimes, but if you fully explore every action as it happens in your story, stuff that doesn’t have to go in the final draft but if you go back to any actions origin, and then to that origin’s origin, and as far back until the catalyst starts the dominoes that fall to make that single action come to pass, you soon realize that nothing happens randomly. True, a lot of things might come about from someone’s mistake, or some natural event, like a bolt of lightning, occurs along the way.
When things just happen by pure happenstance, it makes your protagonist powerless to change anything, and that’s a protagonists job! They’re there to change themselves, the world, the minds of others, whatever. If they don’t change then they’re boring and useless and people might start asking, “why are we even watching this person?” They have to have troubles so they can learn and do it all again later, but better than before. Usually when I see people break this rule it’s because nothing but good things happen to the hero without any effort and the character doesn’t need to grow or change in any way. Here it’s just the opposite. Instead, nothing but bad things to the main character to the point she’s totally powerless in the face of everything. She’s so unable to affect the plot that she might as well just roll over and die. Characters need arcs, without it you’re movie won’t be interesting and you’re audience will just be left wanting more.
+2: Has a couple of good parts, but feels empty by the end of it
+1.5: Pretty great acting all around
+1: An interesting style
+1: The cinematography was noticeably good
-1: Not nearly enough story considering film length
-1: This film needs characters who can change, or at least affect the things happening to them