Yalitza Aparicio only auditioned for Roma because her sister was heavily pregnant and in no fit state to. Neither had acted before. But her older sister was desperate to know what the audition would be like, so she sent Aparicio along as a proxy. “I didn’t want to do the casting,” she says. “My sister pushed me because, in our community, they have never come before to ask us to be in films.”
Aparicio got through the first audition, then the second and, finally, months later, the third. Now there is talk of her winning an Oscar. If she does, it will be deserved. Alfonso Cuarón’s Roma is a masterpiece, and Aparicio’s performance is astonishing.
Roma is named after a district located in the Cuauhtémoc borough of Mexico City where it is set. The story, filmed in black and white, is simple – it is the early 1970s and a seemingly happy, upper-middle-class family implodes after a quiet betrayal. At the same time, Mexico explodes with student riots and an army massacre. Roma is the story of Cuarón’s childhood and it is entirely his movie – he has written, directed, edited, shot and produced the film. Yet, on screen, the film belongs to Aparicio, who plays the family’s nanny/maid, Cleo – everything is seen through her eyes.
Roma pulls off the impossible. It is both spine-tinglingly intimate (the texture of skin, the slop of water on paving stones, hushed conversations in the night) and thrillingly epic (the sea has never seemed so terrifying). It is a film in which nothing and everything happens.