Alfonso Cuarón’s Roma has taken the top spot in one of the world’s most respected film critics’ opinion polls, Sight & Sound’s Films of the Year.
Alfonso Cuarón’s Roma is Sight & Sound’s Film of the Year 2018. Written and directed by the man behind Gravity, Y Tu Mamá También and Children of Men, is a semi-autobiographical look at Cuarón’s 1970s upbringing in Mexico City.
The film, its title referring to the Colonia Roma district of the city, follows the life of a live-in housekeeper, chronicling a year working for a middle class family. It sees the director return to his native Spanish for what has been described as “a sumptuous black-and-white ode to the woman who shaped his early life”.
Roma, who The Guardian’s film critic Peter Bradshaw called “thrilling, engrossing, moving”, is already being tipped as an awards season favourite with wins at the BIFAs (Best International Independent Film) and New York Critics Circle Awards already.
The film follows Cuarón’s foray into English-language films including the best Harry Potter franchise entry (Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban) and award-winners Gravity and Children of Men. His return to Spanish, seen first by cinema audiences on November 30 and soon on Netflix in December, beat Paul Thomas Anderson’s Oscar-winning Phantom Thread and Lee Chang-dong’s Burning to first place.
“I could not be more delighted to see Alfonso Cuarón’s Roma top our Best Films of 2018 poll,” said Sight & Sound’s Editor, Nick James. “Its very success as an instant classic of substance, a film praised beyond all others for wowing audiences of all kinds, is thrilling when you consider it’s a subtitled, black and white tale of a Mixteco maid and the family she serves in the 1970s.”
James felt the film “reaffirmed cinema’s capacity to make great popular art as well as great entertainment” with its much-anticipated debut on Netflix set to test that theory on a platform awash with bite-size pop film and TV.
Criticism aimed at Netflix goes somewhat against what Sight & Sound editor Nick James gushes about given that this video-on-demand-provider-bankrolled film was made with the specific intention of digital small screen consumption. Bradshaw, in his Guardian film review, argued Roma should be seen on the big screen to be truly appreciated.
But the flipside is that Netflix users will get to see Sight & Sound’s “film of the year” before Christmas; an opportunity that clearly should not be missed.
The list of films praised in the poll of over 160 critics, programmers and academics from around the world, saw Cold War (Pawel Pawlikowski), First Reformed (Paul Schrader), Leave No Trace (Debra Granik), The Favourite (Yorgos Lanthimos), You Were Never Really Here (Lynne Ramsay), Happy as Lazzaro (Alice Rohrwacher) and Zama (Lucrecia Martel) round out the top 10.