A masterpiece of memory and cultural commentary
Director Alfonso Cuaron’s latest features lustrous black and white cinematography and an award-worthy star turn
★★★★( out of 4)
Roma will be tough to beat as the best film of 2018.
Mexican writer/director Alfonso Cuarón’s naturalistic masterpiece is at once a tribute to the women who raised him and a comment on turbulent times.
The film is as intimate as Cuarón’s early breakthrough
Y Tu Mamá También, as expansive as his cosmic trip Gravity
and as culturally fraught as his dystopian nightmare Children of Men. But it makes an impact all its own, with a detail-rich story of strength and compassion in the midst of inhumanity.
Set in the early 1970s, Roma
is titled for and located in and around the Mexico City neighbourhood of Cuarón’s youth, where he was raised from the age of 9 months by a nanny named Libo, to whom the film is dedicated.
Libo is recalled by lead character Cleo, an Indigenous maid and nanny played by first-time actor Yalitza Aparicio, a schoolteacher and former domestic worker who will not be forgotten during awards season — and neither will the film nor Cuarón’s
many contributions to it, which also includes lustrous B&W cinematography.
Roma has a limited theatrical run before moving to Netflix on Dec. 14, but it demands to be seen on the big screen wherever possible.
Aparicio’s guileless Cleo brings freshness, empathy and a grounding reality to a story that at times seems utterly unreal, as in a scene that horrifically recreates the Cor(out
pus Christi massacre of June 1971, when Mexican army soldiers fired on student protesters, killing 120 people.
Roma invites us into Cleo’s busy life and also that of her harried boss Sofia (Marina de Tavira), a biochemist, teacher and mother.
Divided by class, the two women are linked by misfortune; they’ll soon discover they cannot depend on the men in their lives and will
have to rely on each other.
It might be better to say that the film pulls us into the lives of these women, who seem constantly in motion. They live on a street alive with the cacophony of cars and pedestrians, but also the sweet melodies of caged birds, a love song on the radio and the whistle of a door-to-door knife sharpener.
Roma brilliantly bridges past and present, poor and rich, good times and bad.
From left, Marco Graf, Daniela Demesa, Yalitza Aparicio, Marina De Tavira, Diego Cortina Autrey and Carlos Peralta Jacobson in Roma, which is named after the hometown of director Alfonso Cuaron. CARLOS SOMONTE/THE CANADIAN PRESS