In the first of our series of best picture Oscar hustings, here’s the case for Alfonso Cuarón’s novelistic jewel about race, class and culture in Mexico City
The best picture winner can only be Alfonso Cuarón’s glorious and very personal movie Roma, co-produced with Nicolás Celis and Gabriela Rodriguez. This jewel is inspired by his own upbringing in early 1970s Mexico City, and his family’s complex relationship with their beloved live-in maid. The film’s engagement with race, culture and class together with its staggeringly choreographed setpieces and sublimely inspired incidental detail all come together with Yalitza Aparicio’s wonderful lead performance to weave a spell.
Part of it is Cuarón’s miraculously unforced narrative flow. So many movies look like they have come out of screenplay-seminar thinking: three acts, show-don’t-tell, character arc, obstacles surmounted, life-lessons learned. By contrast, Roma just spills out unhurriedly on to the screen, moving this way and that, like the water being patiently sploshed by the maid Cleo on to the tiled driveway under the film’s opening credits. It has an inspired fluency, uncoerced, unmanaged, full of digressive ease.