Roma, Alfonso Cuarón's most personal film to date, is being (rightfully) hailed as a masterpiece. It's a portrait of the soul of a culture carried, birthed, nursed and loved by women, and it is perfection. The writer-director shot in chronological order, without showing the cast the script, unveiling it to the actors the same way it is for the audience, piece by piece, a chance to marinate in each moment as it plays out. The story is that of a privileged family in the early '70s, living in Roma, a borough just west of Ciudad Mexico. Its heart is the family's caretaker, Cleo (the transcendent Yalitza Aparicio in her very first acting role).
Cleo is the surrogate mother to the children she cares for, the soul sister and friend to matron of the home Sofia (Marina de Tavira), and also the employee who shares a tiny room floors above the garage with her own best friend, the household's cook, Adela (Nancy García). Cleo and Adela giggle and gossip in Mixteca, their indigenous language, over her boss' sometimes nitpicky requests.
Cuarón has called the film, which spans one year in a changing country and evolving family, an homage to the women who raised him. As Cleo faces surprise pregnancy, and both she and Sofia find themselves deserted by the men in their lives, Cuarón crafts a vision of Mexican womanhood while also peppering in contrasting reflections between poverty and privilege. Roma explores the delicate nature of a woman's autonomy over her feelings, and how she changes through love and loss. Serving as his own cinematographer, Cuarón manifests life and humanity in its purest forms in gorgeously intricate, effusive frames.