Roma – Netflix movie review: A striking, heartfelt historical drama

Gravity director Alfonso Cuarón returns with his most personal film, inspired by his youth in Mexico City

Yalitza Aparicio as Cleo, Marco Graf as Pepe, Carlos Peralta Jacobson as Paco, and Daniela Demesa as Sofi in Roma, written and directed by Alfonso Cuarón.
Image by Alfonso Cuarón.

★★★★

Alfonso Cuarón, the Oscar-winning director of Gravity, opts for art house black and white to tell this poignant semi-autobiographical drama. Set in the comfortable upper middle-class neighbourhood of Roma in Mexico City, this compelling story centres on a marriage slowly splintering apart and the native Latina live-in maid who stands at the swirling heart of the family for whom she works.

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Non-professional actor Yalitza Aparicio was chosen by the director to play the loyal and loving Cleo, a quiet young woman who is more mother than maidservant and looks after the fractious Sofia (Marina de Tavira) and her children. As Mexico undergoes the political traumas of the early 1970s, Cleo indoors shows us how to keep calm and carry on.

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Surprisingly, the film is shot without his regular cinematographer, triple Oscar-winner Emmanuel Lubezki, but Cuarón takes over lighting and camera duties to striking yet effortless effect. That’s in addition to writing and co-editing a sublime love letter to his youth.

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Roma is available now on Netflix