(director/writer: Alfonso Cuarón; cinematographer: Alfonso Cuarón; editors: Alfonso Cuarón, Adam Gough; cast: Yalitza Aparicio (Cleo), Marina deTavira (Sra Sofa), Nancy Garcia(Adela), Marco Graf (Pepe), Fernando Gregiaga (Sr. Antonio), Daniela Demesa (Sofi), Carlos Peralta (Paco), Diego Cortina Autrey (Toño), Jorge Antonio Guerrero (Fermín); Runtime: 135; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Gabriela Rodriguez, Alfonso Cuaron, Nicolas Celis; Netflix; 2018-B/W-Mexico/USA-in Spanish and Mixteca with English subtitles)

The brilliant film chronicles a middle-class family in the 1970s who dwell in the Roma neighborhood, in Mexico City.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

It’s beautifully shot in 65mm black-and-white by the Mexican auteur Alfonso Cuarón(“Gravity”/”Children of Men”). This semi-biographical film is his most personal one to date, whose material is universal and very moving.
The brilliant film chronicles a middle-class family in the 1970s who dwell in the Roma neighborhood, in Mexico City. The restrained film is mostly seen through the eyes of the family’s young housekeeper, Cleo (Yalitza Aparicio, her debut). Cuarón uses his memory, the best he can, to reconstruct his own bourgeois childhood, and aims to make it a love letter to the women who raised him. The single Cleo, an indigenous Mesoamerican, loyally works for the well-to-do family headed by Dr. Antonio (Fernando Grediaga), that includes his frantic wife Sofía (Marina de Tavira, a scene-stealer) and their four kids (a girl and three boys--Diego Cortina Autrey, Carlos Peralta, Marco Graf and Daniela Demesa–with the youngest being the director himself). The live-in maid shares a tiny attic room above the garage with the cook (Nancy Garcia). The family views Cleo as an extended member of the family and she is treated just like one of them. She’s always around for the kids, even when they watch television in the evening. Somehow she also manages to live her own life while always busy doing her routine work chores. The narrative builds on its many small moments and subtle pleasures and personal things that happen to the household residents, as it covers the ups and downs of domestic life with a few twists thrown in. It basically operates as a traditional period piece that explodes with an occasional eye-catching scene like the violent street riot. For the most part the camera seamlessly follows the endearing Yalitza Aparicio around, who has a great camera presence and a vital energy that captures the family’s energy and that connection helps make this wonderful film such a great one–a film not to be missed.