Everything you need to know about the Netflix movie 'Roma,' the groundbreaking film tied for most Oscar nominations this year

NetflixYalitza Aparicio as Cleo on Netflix’s ‘Roma.’
  • Netflix original film “Roma” just landed 10 Oscar nominations.
  • The semi-autobiographical movie is written and directed by Alfonso Cuarón (“Gravity”).
  • It’s based on the story of the real domestic worker who helped raise him in Mexico City in the ’70s.
  • The film’s star Yalitza Aparicio (Cleo) has also broken records with her nomination for best actress, along with her co-star Marina de Tavira (Sofia).
  • Yalitza had no prior formal acting experience before her breakout performance in “Roma.”

For the first time in history, a Netflix original movie has tied for the most Oscar nominations in this year’s 91st annual Academy Awards. “Roma” is written and directed by Alfonso Cuarón (“Gravity,” “Children of Men,” “Y Tu Mamá También”), and just landed 10 nominations for the Oscars. Though you can see “Roma” in a limited number of movie theatres, the R-rated film is streaming now on Netflix.

Here’s everything you should know about this groundbreaking movie.

The movie’s protagonist, Cleo, is based on a real person from Cuarón’s life

Yalitza Aparicio stars in the film as Cleo, a young domestic worker for a middle-class family in Mexico City. The movie’s title comes from the 1970s neighbourhood, Colonia Roma, where the family lives. The plot and setting of the movie is based on Cuarón’s own childhood and the young woman who worked in his house as he grew up. As the Netflix description for “Roma” explains, the film is Cuarón’s way of “delivering an artful love letter to the women who raised him.”

Yalitza Aparicioas Cleo in Roma Netflix movie rooftop sceneNetflixCuarón sort of appears in the movie as one of the young children Cleo watches.

Aparicio’s performance as Cleo received a nomination for best actress, and her co-star Marina de Tavira (who plays Señora Sofia, the mother of the house where Cleo works) was nominated for best supporting actress. It is the first Oscar nomination for both women.

The entire film follows Cleo as she works tirelessly for the family, which includes a mother (Sofia) and father (Antonio) who are at a fraught point in their marriage. Cleo takes care of the four children in the house while also balancing her own romantic life and ambitions.

Part of the backdrop for Cleo’s story is the political tensions in Mexico City between student protestors and a faction of the Mexican army. The violence intersects with Cleo’s personal life as the city’s simmering conflict boils over. “Cuarón draws on his own childhood to create a vivid and emotional portrait of domestic strife and social hierarchy amidst political turmoil of the 1970s,” the Netflix description reads.

The story of “Roma” is one of devotion, loss, ambition, class structures, family, love, isolation, and the things in life that bridge us rather than divide us.

Carlos Somonte/NetflixYalitza Aparicio and Marina de Tavira as Cleo and Sofia in ‘Roma.’

‘Roma’ debuted on Netflix, and was shot entirely in black-and-white

The movie is also written entirely in a combination of Spanish and Mixteco, and plays automatically on Netflix with English subtitles.

The film has no original score, but instead uses its immersive sound design to make you feel as if you’re watching a gorgeous live-streaming tableau of life in Mexico City. Instead of an overlaid soundtrack, the car horns and birds twittering and gentle brushing of mop on tiled flooring serves as the “music” of the movie.

The family’s house is a movie set built as an almost exact replica of Cuarón’s actual childhood home. The production team also built out whole fake city blocks of 1970s Mexico City in order to film the long tracking shots serving as a stylistic trademark of the movie.

As fellow Oscar-winning director Guillermo del Toro said in a tweet-thread about the movie, “Roma” is stylised almost like a mural painting, with the camera slowly panning over artistically designed and staged settings.

Oscar-nominee Yalitza Aparicio was a preschool teacher before landing the lead role in ‘Roma’

“Yalitza Aparicio, a preschool teacher from a town in Oaxaca, brought her mother to her audition because she was concerned the meeting might be a trafficking scam,” The Hollywood Reporter’s Rebecca Ford wrote in a feature on Cuarón’s film. “Cuaron took one look and knew he had found his Cleo.”

Aparicio had no formal acting training before “Roma,” and critics are raving about her incredible performance as the quiet and earnest Cleo.

“In Cleo, Cuarón has created a character of pure devotion and human spirit, and Aparicio delivers a restrained albeit passionate performance,” critic Kiko Martinez wrote.


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Carlos Somonte/NetflixCleo has an unwavering devotion to the children she cares for.

All the new milestones achieved by ‘Roma’ at the Academy Awards this year

With its 10 total nominations, “Roma” is tied for the most Oscar nominations this year alongside “The Favourite.” It has tied the record held by “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” (2000) for the most nominations received by a foreign language film, and it is the tenth foreign language film nominated for best picture.

Aparicio is only the second actress nominated for a debut performance in a spoken language other than English, and she is the first Indigenous woman to ever receive an Oscar nomination. This is Cuarón’s tenth Oscar nomination overall.


Read more:
The complete list of the 2019 Oscar nominations

This is the first time a Netflix original movie has ever been nominated for best picture. Here are all the Oscars it might win this February: Best picture (Gabriela Rodríguez and Alfonso Cuarón), best director (Alfonso Cuarón), best actress (Yalitza Aparicio), best supporting actress (Marina de Tavira), best original screenplay (Alfonso Cuarón), best foreign language film, best cinematography (Alfonso Cuarón), best production design (Eugenio Caballero and Bárbara Enríquez), best sound editing (Sergio Díaz and Skip Lievsay), best sound mixing (Skip Lievsay, Craig Henighan, and José Antonio García).

How to watch ‘Roma’

“Roma” in some movie theatres around the country, but you can stream it now on Netflix at any time. We highly recommended turning your phones on silent and cranking up the volume in order to experience the full impact of “Roma” and its impressive sound design.

The 91st annual Academy Awards will be held on Sunday, February 24, at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood, and will be televised live on the ABC Television Network.

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