It’s been three years since Alfonso Cuarón’s Roma made Oscar history, with lead actress Yalitza Aparicio becoming the first Mexican woman to be nominated for a Best Actress Oscar in 14 years and the first Indigenous woman in history. But in the years since Roma was released, Aparicio has not taken on a new feature film role since — until now.
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As much as Roma, the latest from writer/director Alfonso Cuarón (Gravity, Children of Men, Y Tu Mamá También), is a barely veiled account of his childhood growing up in the middle-class neighborhood of Roma in Mexico City, in truth, it is the story of the two most important women in his life — his mother (renamed Sofia in the film and played by veteran Mexican actress Marina de Tavira) and Cleo (newcomer Yalitza Aparicio), the woman who raised him full time while also taking care of the house and his three siblings (based on a real-life woman named Libo). Easily his most personal and most intimate work to date, Roma finds Cuarón (who also shot and co-edited the film) composing a lyrical, breathtaking look at childhood, as well as the tumultuous times in the city in the early 1970s, which are sometimes only portrayed as background to the more immediate concerns of the family, which was actively being let down and broken apart by careless men.
Mexico’s official selection (and leading contender) for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar at the 91st Academy Awards, the stunning black-and-white epic is filled with love and chaos, measured melodrama, a spectacular soundscape, and breathtaking performances from both lead actresses, who were cast by Cuarón using a very mysterious process that even they don’t quite understand. And while one of them is a seasoned performer and the other has never acted before, both give performances that are moving and beautifully authentic.
/Film spoke to Aparicio (who spoke through a translator) and De Tavira at the recent Chicago International Film Festival to talk about working with the enigmatic Cuarón and how the realization that they were playing characters deeply important to the filmmaker changed their perception of the overall film. Considered to be one of the finest works of 2018, Roma is in select theaters now, eventually hitting more than 600 theaters worldwide (including 100 in the United States), before it debuts on Netflix on December 14.
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Alfonso Cuarón‘s Roma is a singular achievement – a visually resplendent tale of empathy, focusing on a housekeeper in 1970s Mexico, and the family she works and lives with.
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