“Roma” has been widely referred to as director Alfonso Cuarón’s most personal project yet, and it’s not hard to see why – he’s put everything he has into this film.
Loosely inspired by Cuarón’s childhood, “Roma” shows a year in the life of a middle-class family in Mexico City during the 1970s. Cleo, the family’s nanny (Yalitza Aparicio), must help the mother, Sofía (Marina de Tavira), through her struggles, all the while dealing with her own.
As Cleo and her employer’s personal lives begin to unravel, audiences are completely drawn into the family and their stories, feeling like the children are their own and the house is a place they’ve visited many times.
In her first-ever acting role, Aparicio, is phenomenal, delivering a number of powerful scenes throughout. For a school teacher with no prior acting experience, Aparicio is already garnering Oscar buzz for her debut role.
“The first time I saw it, I cried,” Aparicio said. “It’s been very surprising. I call it the dream I never dreamed. I never expected to live something like this and I feel absolutely grateful for the opportunity and for the public’s favorable opinions of the movie.”
Cuarón took an unconventional approach to “Roma,” shooting it chronologically and without a written script. Cuarón told each actor their lines shortly before every scene, but kept the others’ lines a secret, ensuring real and honest reactions in all of the dialogue.
“We would arrive to the set and he would talk to each actor in separate ways,” de Tavira said. “He would tell us some information about what was going to happen or what the character felt, but separately. Then he would put it together and see what happened. We were constantly dealing with the unexpected.”
Set in beautiful black and white, “Roma” is truly an audio-visual experience meant for the big screen. On top of the stunning slow pans and scenery, the film’s sound is strikingly loud and impactful, particularly in a closing scene set in the ocean.
Powered by Cuarón’s extremely personal story and Aparicio’s standout performance, “Roma” is a beautiful story of heart and belonging. After shining in such a heralded debut, it’s clear this is only the beginning for Aparicio.
Zach Goins is a member of the North Carolina Film Critics Association based in Charlotte, N.C. Zach co-founded Inside The Film Room in 2018 and serves as Editor-in-Chief of the website and co-host of the podcast. Zach also serves as a film critic for CLTure.org.