Alfonso Cuaron’s memory-drenched drama “Roma” dominated the New York Film Critics Circle Awards on Thursday, winning best film, best director and best cinematography.
This may be the just the first of many such sweeps. Cuaron’s film has been hailed as a masterpiece since winning the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival. It’s a favorite to win the best picture category at the Academy Awards.
Cuaron made the black-and-white 1970s-set film based on his own upbringing in Mexico City, and was also cinematographer.
The Guardian in London called it a “thrilling, engrossing, moving – and just entirely amazing, an adjectival pileup of wonder.”
“Cuarón has an extraordinary way of combining the closeup and the wide shot, the tellingly observed detail – humorous or poignant or just effortlessly authentic – with the big picture and the sense of scale. At times, it feels novelistic in its sense of character development and inner life: a densely realized, intimate drama developing in what feels like real time. In its engagingly episodic way, it is also like a soap opera or telenovela. And at other times it is resoundingly epic,” Peter Bradshaw, the newspaper’s film critic, gushed.
“The streetscapes in 1970s Mexico City are worthy of Scorsese, and Cuarón stages stunning crowd scenes, especially his evocation of the Corpus Christi massacre, when around 120 people were killed by the military during a student demonstration. Very often, Cuarón’s tracking shots slide and snake us through the crowds to the doors of a cinema, where in one scene an audience is shown enjoying John Sturges’s 1969 sci-fi picture Marooned, which we can now assume to be an influence on his own deep-space masterpiece, Gravity.”
Roma will be viewed on Netflix starting Dec. 14, but its cinematic qualities are best appreciated on a big screen.
Admission is 40 pesos for adults and 30 for children, with a Wednesday two-for-one offer.
The state culture director, Mauricio Díaz Montalvo, guaranteed that there will be sufficient screenings to meet demand.
“We are very proud to show a film that is an Oscar candidate and is considered the ‘Best Foreign Film,” he said.
So far, four screenings are scheduled per day, at 1:05 p.m., 3:40 p.m., 6:15 p.m. and 8:50 p.m.
“Roma” is fundamentally the tale of two women: Cleo (played wonderfully by non-professional newcomer Yalitza Aparicio), a young woman of Mixteco Mesoamerican heritage working as a live-in maid for an upper-middle-class family. Cleo’s personal life is beginning to unravel in tandem with that of her employer, Sofía (Marina De Tavira).
The household appears placid on the surface, but there are signs of tension and dysfunction. The tiled courtyard driveway, which is shown being mopped clean over the opening credits, is habitually covered in the excrement of the family’s much cherished dog. The man of the house, Antonio (Fernando Grediaga), parks his car in this space with a wearied yet fanatical care that hints at his own unhappiness.
His wife Sofía presides over four boisterous children, but the real work is being done by Cleo and her fellow maid Adela (Nancy García García), who are well treated, but also bear the brunt of class- and race-based condescension. Antonio keeps going away for what are supposedly business trips and Cleo has to explain to her sketchy boyfriend Fermín (Jorge Antonio Guerrero) that she has missed her period.
“There is tragedy, comedy and absurdity here, along with sublime mystery in its extraordinary setpieces. At the heart of it all is a wonderful performance from Aparicio, who brings to the role something delicate and stoic. She is the jewel of this outstanding film,” Bradshaw writes.