Tay’s review published on Letterboxd:
a masterful, reverent demonstration and reminder that life does not fluctuate between moments of joy, success, triumph and moments of loss, heartbreak, and defeat. life is everything, all at once: it’s new life and death, trust and betrayal, fire and song, forgiveness and ingratitude, ash and seawater. this is a memory of another life, lived sensitively, gracefully, compassionately.
Cuarón’s Roma is more than a glimpse into Cleo’s life—this film stares unflinchingly into the mirror of the every day. we see the labor, the tiredness suppressed to the point of overwhelming, the isolation of task after task. we revel in the pockets of togetherness, the evenings of couch-sitting and tv-watching, the games played in the rain, in the woods, on the shores of an endless beach. we are among the guns, the violence, the cowards, the men who choose to leave and decide not to return. we are in the crowded theater, back on the empty streets, drinking with the hope that the next year will bring better fortune, more love, something new and exciting.
the silence that follows the cacophonous hospital is smothering—i held my hands to my face, wiping tears and snot and spit away, biting my fingers in anticipation, in fear, in worry, in grief. it’s the quietness that unsettles, unnerves, and breaks down the finely crafted parameters of this film. Roma isn’t about its slick black and white aesthetic, its dizzyingly smooth dolly shots, its smart dialogue and choreography. Roma is about that which is so small we forget to pay its dues. this is an elegy for Cleo, Sofia, Teresa, the woman in the middle of the road cradling her loved one’s body. i'm so stupidly glad i had the opportunity to see this in a theater, and not only because Cuarón's film looks like a dream spread out against a dark sky. the theater was a collective, we fell in love with Cleo together, we hurt for Cleo together. the soft sounds of sniffling, of pleading with the screen oh no, no, no, as if we were there with her—we were there together. that which was almost unbearable was made bearable by the fact we were in it as one, and it felt terribly electric to be a unit like that.
Roma is also a deafening, resounding yawp, celebrating the resilience of women, family, and life. the sky above is not the top of a closed dome; it is a vast, open horizon under which we roam with so much sorrow, so much hope, so much determination.
Marie Howe writes in "What the Living Do" that we "want the spring to come and the winter to pass. We want whoever to call or not call, a letter, a kiss—we want more and more and then more of it." these are the ordinary yearnings, grounded in the desire to connect, to be heard, to be understood. life is terribly long, and still not enough. we want more of it all, and for it to hurt less, and for there to be more light.
what do we owe each other? enough mind to say: i saw you, i felt you, i remember you, i love you. this is Cleo’s love letter. we’re signing off with our own little lives offered in return for Roma, which is is one of the greatest labors of love to reach beyond its own form and bury itself back into life beyond the theater. thank you, thank you, thank you