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Cleo (actress Yalitza Aparicio), a housekeeper in the movie Roma
Cleo (actress Yalitza Aparicio), a housekeeper in the movie Roma. Photo via @alfonsocuaron on Twitter

Alfonso Cuarón's Film 

Feb 23, 2019
by Diane McCurdy, Film and Book Reviews


The film, Roma, is unique for several reasons. First of all, its presentation is unusual. It has played on local screens while being simultaneously streamed on Netflix. When a film is shown originally on TV, it is considered to be in a different category when one is considering award criteria. Because of its theatrical release, Roma garnered a place in the more prestigious Academy Award classification along with nine other nominations. In an additional quirk, it appears on the regular list of nominees and also on the shorter best foreign films list. It is unabashedly autobiographical. Director/writer, Alfonso Cuaron, is mostly known for having helmed 'Gravity' and 'Children of Men' but he also directed such disparate works as 'Y Tu Mama Tambien' and 'Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban'. Roma has nothing to do with Italy. It refers to an upper middle class section of Mexico City.

Cleo (actress Yalitza Aparicio), around whom the story evolves is a servant of obvious indigenous stock in the household of a successful couple. The husband is a physician and the wife is an academic. There are four obstreperous children who are her charges. They adore her and she cherishes them. She goes about her duties almost as if she is sleepwalking — passively, patiently. But there is tension in the household. The doctor leaves on a supposed business trip which is actually a sojourn with his mistress. Does Cleo know? Do the children know? Two surrealistic scenes involve a desperate road trip to visit a relative. The relative 's beloved dogs, upon their demise, have all been stuffed and hung on a wall. A fire that ensues has something to with "land grabs" and is particularly effective in the stark black and white cinematography. Another segment features Cleo's boyfriend, Fermin, in a complex martial arts demonstration which he performs totally nude. Included are an earthquake, a still birth, a ubiquitous under-loved dog and Mexican history of political unrest including the Corpus Christi massacre. A near drowning at the end shows the family grasping together on a beach, a tableau, a powerful image that engenders hope into an otherwise dire situation.

Jorge Antonio Guerrero, plays Cleo's boyfriend. Photo via Wikimedia Commons.In a sign of the times, the Mexican actor Jorge Antonio Guerrero who plays Cleo's boyfriend has, at the time of this writing, been denied a VISA into the United States to attend industry events even though he has been given letters of recommendation by not only Cuarónbut by Netflix as well. This film has received much recognition and many awards. I support these accolades but I really can't tell you why. The narrative is strangely captivating. It touches something primal.

See also historical background to the movie.

Now playing at the Rialto Cinema, Sebastopol through February 28 :

3 Golden Globe Nominations
Best Foreign Language Film
Best Director, Alfonso Cuaron
Best Screenplay, Alfonso Cuaron

SEE the NetFlix TRAILER:


“No film that I will do is meant to be seen in a telephone, you know. If somebody chooses to see it like that well that's their choice but I hope that people who care about the art of cinema, they will want to see it on a big screen. As I hope that, please if you happen to see Roma, please try to see it in a big screen." - Alfonso Cuaron speaking at the BAFTA Screenwriters Series


Alfonso Cuaron's semi-autobiographical ROMA

Alfonso Cuaron's semi-autobiographical ROMA

Alfonso Cuaron's semi-autobiographical ROMA is an immersive, compassionate technical masterwork that, though set in the 1970s, speaks directly to contemporary Mexican society. Cleo (Yalitza Aparicio) works as a live-in maid and nanny for an upper-middle-class family in Mexico City's Roma district. When the family patriarch departs for an unusually protracted business trip, his wife, Sofia (Marina de Tavira), is left at home. While Cleo helps Sofia take care of the children, she is dumped by her self-absorbed boyfriend after he discovers she is pregnant. As both women face the possibility of single motherhood, it's obvious that their disparate levels of social status will differently impact their possible futures. Shot on 65mm digital black and white, ROMA subtly explores these ethnic and class divisions with a potent sense of emotional intimacy and historical acuteness.


"Cuaron has made his most personal film to date. The blend of the humane and the artistic within nearly every scene is breathtaking. A masterful achievement in filmmaking." -



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