Alfonso Cuarón takes two awards at the Golden Globes for Roma

Photo by Carlos Somonte

Mexican film director Alfonso Cuaron’s newest film, Roma, depicts a touching and personal story that weaves in and out of real memories from his childhood.

It has now been nearly two decades since his last Spanish language film, Y Tu Mama Tambien, however yesterday’s Golden Globes affirmed that Cuaron’s talent for film directing is for now an unstoppable force.

Winning the title of Best Foreign Film and Best Director, as well as being up for Best Screenplay, Cuaron thanked Mexico when he took to the stage for receiving his first award of the night.  

Released on Netflix on 14 December, Cuaron’s eighth movie follows the life of a family maid, Cleo, who is working for an upper-middle class family in the colonial neighbourhood of Roma, Mexico City in the 1970s. Filmed as a homage to the women in his life, according to Cuaron, Cleo mirrors the real housekeeper, Libo, that still works for his family today.

Filmed completely in black and white, the sometimes somber plot follows maid Cleo (Yalitza Aparicio), an indigenous Mexican, as she works to hold together the family she is living with and get to grips with her own pregnancy. The father of her child has disappeared, and her character too weaves between her position as a maid but also her identity as the maternal figure to the children she cares for, part of a family struggling with their own quiet issues.

As ever, Cuaron’s directing style as well as the filming, a lot of which he conducted himself, is certainly beautiful. However, unlike his former creations, Children of Men or Gravity, here, Cuaron has chosen to allow the wide-angled shots to tell the story for themselves.

Movements of the often silent Cleo, as well as the lack of close up shots, is combined to make the viewer fall in love with the very notion of memory itself. The silences, adding to but more captivating viewing.

Star of his new film, Yalitza Aparicio, was a primary school teacher before auditioning for the role of Cleo. With no former acting experience, the 24-year-old was spotted in Tlaxiaco, Oaxaca, and even feared that the auditions might have been a scam. However, it is her innocence from actor’s training that also adds a realness to the mesmerising and beautiful film that plays out.

Intimate conversations and captivating shots of time in Mexico City slowly, but relentlessly edging by in a world that our characters float around.

One could say that everything, and yet nothing, actually occurs throughout Cuaron’s personal plot. However he conjures the interactions of real life and memory in a way that many before him have failed to do. The wider notions of gender and societal expectations in a 70s Mexico, as well as interactions between indigenous cultures and the modern day capital skim the sidelines, as the expecting mother captures the viewer’s own notions of grief, memory and family.

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