Roma is the first foreign language movie that genuinely could’ve won Best Picture. I was actually kind of shocked when it didn’t. Of course this was only one year before Parasite managed to win. The difference is Alfonso Cuarón already being an Academy Award winning director. After Gravity, Cuarón returned to his Mexican roots for the first time since Y tu mamá también. Roma is a deeply personal passion project that won him his second Oscar for Best Director and a win for Best Cinematography. Of course it won Best Foreign Language Film, but it did tie with Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon for most nominations.
Since Roma is also a Netflix film, it sparked discussions for whether or not a streaming movie should even be eligible. At least it was easier to see the movie before the Oscar ceremony. Although filmed in black & white, Roma is probably one of the most beautiful film’s I’ve ever seen. My mom described it like a moving photograph. It’s a simple slice of life story partially based on the director’s 1970’s childhood experiences. Including the time he saw Marooned in theaters (his inspiration for Gravity).
The primary focus is on Indigenous Mixtec maid Cleo who works for a middle-class Mexican family consisting of mother Sofia, father Antonio, grandmother Teresa, and four children. Most actors are unknowns in order for performances to feel more genuine. I didn’t fully understand newcomer Yalitza Aparicio’s Best Actress nomination, but she is raw and sincere. Marina de Tavira also deserved a Best Supporting Actress nomination as struggling mother Sofia. Cleo and the family enjoy their lives, but have to deal with many historical and familial hardships. Antonio leaves, Cleo gets pregnant by her lowlife boyfriend, and the Corpus Christi Massacre happens around them. Roma is either too mundane or too harsh for multiple viewings, but there’s no denying Alfonso Cuarón made his magnum opus.