Children of Men allowed Cuaron to stay in the realm of big budget and fantasy, with the dystopian sci-fi nightmare where Clive Owen navigates a young girl around a slowly dying world where women have been sterile for 18 years. The young girl carrying a secret; She’s pregnant and within lies hope to avert human extinction. It beautifully dissects human condition within the confides of its dystopian scenario. Not only that but a stellar cast is on its A game, and the film is absolutely loaded with amazing imagery and some technically spectacular long takes (particularly some of the action sequences). Whether it’s a car chase where the camera seems to effortlessly dive in and out of a car with no visible cuts, or a huge take of Owen trying to navigate his way through a civil uprising, it’s breathtaking, and the film still holds up.
Following Children of Men was always going to be tough. A lot of anticipation was building around his next feature work and it wouldn’t arrive for 7 years. Gravity took cinema by storm. More an experience than an exceptional film, the technical brilliance of Gravity is what stands out. It was made for the big screen. It must be experienced in 3D on a huge screen. Anything else and it kind of doesn’t work. This is the only drawback to the film. Of course that might make best approached as something akin to a roller-coaster, and the dizzying space sequences are exceptional, as is Sandra Bullock on lead duties.
Once again, a feature hiatus followed. Cuaron helped conceive the TV series, Believe, but it wasn’t until last year his follow up to the monster hit Gravity would arrive. Roma, back in his homeland marks something incredibly stripped back and with such raw potent honesty about the human condition in a setting of turmoil, that it evokes classic period European cinema. It has the aching bittersweet and laser pointed insight as the best in Nordic cinema. There’s dashes of Bergman here, but with Cuaron’s impassioned, impeccable eye. The film itself had potential hurdles that could have affected it. Firstly, Cuaron’s regular director of photography Emmanuel Lubezki (also from Mexico) was unavailable for the shoot. Cuaron, rather than hiring someone else, opted to take on the role himself. Without disrespect to Lubezki, one of the best in the business, you look at Roma and wonder why Cuaron doesn’t just DP all his films. Of course, by comparison to his last few, Roma is scaled back, but regardless, it is quite possibly the more exquisite looking film he’s ever made. Framed magnificently in beautifully lit, black and white photography, Roma is a cinematographic master-class.
Furthermore, Roma’s has beautifully observed characters and the beautiful, honest, rawness of Yalitza Aparico’s debut acting performance (swamped with awards and nominations already, including an Oscar) is astounding. Cuaron has never made more effective and affecting use of the long take either. Two in particular in this film are utterly gut wrenching. It may be his finest work, and one that is unable to fall back on genre conventions like his Sci-Fi works for example. If you don’t quite engage an audience dramatically in a Sci-fi you still have the ability to grab them in action and visual effects for example.
Whatever comes next will undoubtedly come with high expectations, but it’s rare that Cuaron falls below those expectations. What is your favourite Cuaron film? Let us know in the comments below or tweet us @FlickeringMyth…
Tom Jolliffe is an award winning screenwriter and passionate cinephile. He has three features due out on DVD/VOD in 2019 and a number of shorts hitting festivals. Find more info at the best personal site you’ll ever see here.