It is natural to have a level of collegial disagreement among a profession like movie criticism. After all, film fundamentally is a subjective thing because its foundation is subjective taste.

Even considering this subjectivity, every once in a while, a film comes along that truly boggles my mind in having next to no real reason to sit through it, yet many critics at large publications and big media outlets seemingly can't stop falling all over themselves to heap unjustified praise on the picture in question.

The English Patient is a great example of that – boring and going nowhere. Avatar, for me, was another… why would anyone want to be preached at for nearly 3 hours in a theater?  

This was precisely the chatter going through my head as I watch Alfonso Cuarón's multi-award-winning Netflix monument to pretentiousness, Roma – a 2 hour and 15 minute ride on the world's most boring carnival attraction which goes absolutely nowhere, all shot in monochrome to give this horrible film a façade of an "arthouse flick"… to those who think black and white instantly gives even a otherwise poor film a modicum of artistic integrity. PS: it never does.

To be sure, certain shots are gorgeous, but I soon realized in watching this that had Cuarón shot it in color, the movie wouldn't have 1/10th of this ridiculous visual hypnosis about it that seems to have most every critic under its spell. It would just be what it is: a ham-fisted, painfully dull attempt at compelling realism.

To be clear, I adore the black and white palette when its used to truly accentuate things like character motivation, state of mind and the like – my write-up here on Jacques Tourneur's Out of the Past really pointed this out. Check that film out or absolutely anything shot by the great cinematographer John Alton for a lesson in true monochrome artistry. It’s really an insult to the style itself when you use it as the method to paper over the manifest inadequacies of a film's story, the way I feel Cuarón did here.

Towards this point about the monochrome, I implore any critic or lay person reading this to attempt the following when watching Roma. Picture the scene you are in in color with no other changes: same camera angle and movement, same amount of light, etc. Do this especially with the long stationary shots in a room which show domestic work being done, as if the director is saying "I'm going to force you to stare at this scene for a while because it's that damn important!" (Cuarón seems to adore this kind of thing). Is any scene 1/100th as impressive to you after attempting this thought experiment?

Which brings us to story, or in Roma the lack of it. The entirety of Roma is just one year in the life of a Mexico City maid in the 1970s, with some action in the tinderbox of Mexican politics thrown in to attempt to give the mind-numbing banality of Roma a bit of a spark of action.

Realism is a fantastic thing – when it's done right and toward something that is bigger than the everyday life of the character – whether that's an event or something less tangible like an emotion. This gets into a flaw in Roma that once it was pointed out to me by a trusted female friend who is an actress and filmmaker, I really couldn't unsee it.

Why do men keep feeling the need to monopolize fundamentally female stories like Roma and tell them using our flawed and limited male gaze (Cuarón wrote the picture alone)? At the very least, this strips the project in question of its realism and thus also of part of its artistic integrity. At the very most it projects a selfish, privileged attitude of "I'm better than you because I'm a man and you aren't fit to tell a story revolving around your gender."

As I am a man it would be ignorant and wrong for me to say more on women essentially being forced out of their own stories. Nevertheless, the point still needs to be brought up, discussed with women while actually listening to their concerns, hopes, and dreams, and integrated into the final calculus on movies like Roma, especially when Hollywood is supposed to be making strides in fighting this sort of thing as a result of changes brought about through #MeToo and #TimesUp.

Ultimately what Roma boils down to is a study in hype. It is truly a sizzle with zero steak. Sure, every film requires some hype to get it off the ground, look at Hitchcock’s marketing when he did Psycho for instance – he tightly controlled the flow of information in the popular culture and mind in order to assure that the most people possible would be thoroughly surprised with his ending. Still, a rare other type of film actually lives up to the hype it gets: Hereditary was a great example there.

Roma was – like these predecessors – a product of its own hype, a hype that sadly worked in bewitching more than a few critics to bestow their awards and accolades on it. This is sad when there are film’s like Capernaum this awards' season which are exceptional in the technical department and in terms of the philosophical and social import of what they have to say. In my estimation, Roma fails on all these points, and there are so many better movies in award's contention this year. Don't waste your time on here, literally anything else is more enjoyable and thought provoking.

They were wrong on The English Patient in 1997. They were wrong on Avatar in 2009. They are wrong on Roma in 2019.

1/5 Stars