Honestly, I couldn't quite get a grasp on how to understand Alfonso Cuarón's approach until I saw a tweet from Guillermo del Toro the other day. "In every sense, Roma is a fresco, a mural, not a portrait," he wrote.
And it's true. The background of each shot matters as much, if not more, than the foreground, and frequently they're playing off one another in one big, looping narrative. I do wish the film had gotten closer to its main character, but del Toro's analogy helps me appreciate its grander design.