Rated 4.0

Alfonso Cuarón writes, directs, produces, co-edits and serves as his own cinematographer on the intimately lavish Roma, a semi-autobiographical labor of love set in the Mexico City of his youth. The story centers on Cleo (first-time actress Yalitza Aparicio), the live-in housekeeper in an upper middle-class household torn apart by infidelity. Most of this black-and-white film’s leisurely first hour is devoted to carefully laying out the details of Cleo’s world, especially the stark racial, class and gender divides that keep her on the lower rungs of society, but patient viewing leads to powerful emotional payoffs. Cuarón (Gravity; Children of Men) offers another masterclass in bravura camera moves and the seamless integration of CGI, but as ever the film is so precision-tuned and impeccably timed that it feels a little mechanical and bloodless. That said, Cuarón’s Roma still offers an increasingly rare combination of ambition, imagination, compassion, emotion and execution.