Fernando’s review published on Letterboxd:
CUARÓN IS MORE PREOCCUPIED WITH THE FOREST THAN HE IS WITH THE TREES IN ROMA. EXCESSIVE DETAILS TO SHOW THE MILEU BUT ALMOST INVISIBLE DRAMATIC DEVELOPMENT FOR HER PROTAGONIST AND HER FEMALE COUNTERPART. THE RESULT IS A TRULY PRETTY BUT DISTANT FILM, WITH MOMENTS OF SERENE BEAUTY BUT DRAMATIC STAGNANCY.
I was unnmoved by the whole thing and dissapointed by the last shot. Nothing did change to Cleo, it seemed. At least, she deserved free driving lessons at the end… to get away from herself, too.
But such were the fates of housemaids back then. Cuarón didn’t lie. He’s just shrinked his vision (groundbreaking!) And put a LOT of details where it didn’t matter. Almodóvar could have provided free lessons on sorority, warmth and compassion. But Cuarón decided to shoot these central female figures from afar. With a good measure of pity thrown at Cleo. Pity is not same thing as compassion.
It's a natural premise that Mexico could have been insufferably machist back then. Men are scumbags; we get it. But one woman here has a maid and children. The other has substitutes for love, but none of her own. That’s stingy, even for him.
Very few reviewers here complain about the distant treatment Cleo and the main protagonists receive here. I completely agree. Even their voices sound tiny. That's because the forest it's more important than the tree here. A close-up is a device of narrative film that filmmakers use to get a character closer. The only memorable close-up here is an extra singing while a forest is burning. A preciosity totally irrelevant (and not the only one).
Just talking about formalities, but film, to me, is a marriage between content and form. And a bad marriage in spots could derail a whole movie.
The pans left and right and even circular to show the house’s many rooms at the beginning were so obvious. Cleo’s so obviously in every corner of the frame of her patrons. My imaginary gift for Alfonso’s Christmas is Kiarostami’s “Close-Up”. And three or four screenwriters for his next movie, like in Children of Men (still, his actual masterpiece).
Finally, I think Cleo "the character" is ultimately upstaged by Alfonso "the filmmaker". And that's a shame. She deserved better. Marina de Tavira also deserved better. And abuse of pans and irrelevant close-ups does not make for a very insightful film. Just one dramatically inert and in love with its own panoramic flourishes.
I'd never thought I would say "dramatically inert" from a Cuarón film but here we are (say what you will about the script of GRAVITY. Dramatically INERT it's not one of its flaws).
Summarizing: A memoir more interested in shootings, martial arts and burnings than it is with getting closer to the daily thoughts and burdens of both women, reverting all that worked about GRAVITY and Y TU MAMÁ TAMBIÉN, mainly the curious case of the lack of close-ups and important arguments made to closed doors. As if he wants to remember only for nostalgic reasons, leaving any insight about these women to the "hard facts" portrayed here. He was never that emotionally impregnable.
I admire the people who cried with this. It left me cold as ice.
UPDATE: Even if Richard Brody gets some characters wrong, I agree with the fundamentals of his critique: www.newyorker.com/culture/the-front-row/theres-a-voice-missing-in-alfonso-cuarons-roma
UPDATE 2: Del Toro spoiled in Tweeter the whole film. From esthetic choices to the meaning of water and plains, back to Heaven and Earth. He's right about it: It's a "Fresco". In other words, a PAINTING. I would rather see a beautiful MOVING PICTURE than a beautiful PAINTING. But I guess you get the idea.