“…He said, “I know a cure for everything. Salt water.” “Salt water?” I asked him. “Yes,” he said, “in one way or the other. Sweat, or tears, or the salt sea.” ~ Isak Dinesen
In the first few moments of the film “Roma”, while the opening credits are playing, there is an exquisite, relaxing scene of soapy water gently ebbing and flowing across a tile floor. Rolling in… and rolling out, rolling in… and rolling out. It was so hypnotic that I began to wonder whether I could find a way to play this footage on a loop, as a tool for meditation and relaxation. It was just that lovely. And then, reflected in the pool of water, the teeny tiny image of an airplane flying in the sky overhead…whoa!
The director now had my full attention.
And this was no small task, this stirring of my interest, because I’ve gotten a little lazy. Dull, sluggish, apathetic, indifferent, and complacent. I used to be the person to walk through a dreadful snowstorm to sit in a dank, old theater just to see a movie I was excited about. I would stretch myself intellectually and emotionally, and I would seek out things to help me grow. But I lived in New York City then, and that kind of effort is quite commonplace and pretty much required if you want to keep up. Now I live on Hilton Head Island, which is nice and has its advantages, but I think you catch my drift.
So I almost missed out on seeing this wonderful movie that is currently streaming on Netflix, and here’s the main reason why: Because I knew it had…SUBTITLES. Eegads!! Picture this:
Lying on my comfy couch with my Netflix Special Remote in my hand, I just didn’t know if I wanted to exert the energy to deal with subtitles. (!) However in my prone position, propped up by pillows, I kind of reluctantly selected the movie. This was in part because Netflix was continually hounding me to do so (RECOMMENDED FOR YOU!), and also because I know this film has received major Oscar buzz. (The Oscars are my Super Bowl…I tolerate all the hype and ridiculousness and petty controversies because, no matter what, I just love movies.) And that’s when I realized:
It would have been a mistake to overlook this film.
“Roma”, written and directed by Mexican filmmaker Alfonso Cuaron, is filmed in black-and-white, and that is fine with me because if it is done with care there can be so many tones of silver, gray, and pearl as well. It’s just stunning to look at. But here’s the real deal: the story itself, and the lead character. It takes place in Mexico City in the early 1970s and is apparently autobiographical. It definitely has the feeling of a memoir… really a full exploration of the director’s memory…of a specific time and place, and a series of events, as well as a person who made a lasting impression on him.
I won’t try to give a plot summary here, because that is just plain old insufficient. I will merely say that there are a lot of different themes and ideas, and I was particularly struck by the theme of water. Over and over again the director uses water very effectively to help tell his story: It’s a tool, it’s an obstacle, and it’s a savior.
Since the Academy Awards are actually intended to honor “artistic achievement in film” I do hope this movie wins Best Picture this year. But listen up my friends: if the thought of sitting through a 2 hour black-and-white movie with subtitles by a Mexican filmmaker you’ve probably never heard of immediately sounds like torture to you, then don’t bother. No worries! Watch “Black Panther” instead, or better yet, “Bohemian Rhapsody”. They are both awesome and much more popular and accessible. However, if you do have a taste for high quality movies that are more personal and thoughtful, I encourage you to watch this one. You can’t do better right now than “Roma”.