A mas­ter­piece of mem­ory and cul­tural com­men­tary

Di­rec­tor Al­fonso Cuaron’s lat­est fea­tures lus­trous black and white cin­e­matog­ra­phy and an award-wor­thy star turn

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★★★★( 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

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