TIFF review: ROMA

Alfonso Cuarón's semi-autobiographical family drama is engrossing and sublime


ROMA SPEC D: Alfonso Cuarón. 135 min. Sep 12, noon, TBLB 2 Sep 13, 11:30 am, TBLB 2 Sep 14, 9:15 am, TBLB 2 Sep 15, 8:45 pm, TBLB 2 Sep 16, 2:45 pm, TBLB 2. See listing. Rating: NNNNN


Partially inspired by director Cuarón’s own upbringing, ROMA is a beautiful, engrossing portrait of a young woman of Mixteco heritage set in Mexico City during the 1970s.

Shot in black and white, and with subtitles in Spanish and Mixtec, the film follows Cleo as she works as a live-in nanny and maid for an upper-middle-class family in the wealthy Colonial Roma district. Throughout the film, Cleo straddles the line between employee and family member, inching closer to the latter as the household unravels when the father abandons the family.  

The movie touches on the political issues of the time, like land disputes and class wars, but without ever losing focus on Cleo, who is played by first-time actor Yalitza Aparicio. In the end, she’s the heart of ROMA. (And after all, Cuarón dedicates the film to the real-life Cleo who helped raised him, Libo).

Cuarón’s attention to detail is sublime: sweeping shots of the family’s immaculate home, the gritty streets of Mexico City crowded with food vendors, the chaos of a deadly student protest.

The film will be later released on Netflix, but if you can, it’s worth seeing Cuarón’s masterpiece in a theatre rather than on a laptop screen.  

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