Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBBB. Mexico/USA, 2018. Esperanto Filmoj, Participant Media. Screenplay by Alfonso Cuarón. Cinematography by Alfonso Cuarón. Produced by Nicolás Celis, Alfonso Cuarón, Gabriela Rodriguez. Production Design by Eugenio Caballero. Costume Design by Anna Terrazas. Film Editing by Alfonso Cuarón, Adam Gough. Golden Globe Awards 2018. Toronto International Film Festival 2018.
Alfonso Cuaron follows his fascinating voyage into outer space with one much closer to home, a semi-autobiographical recreation of his childhood whose focus is the young woman (Yalitza Aparicio) who works as a maid to the family of a bourgeois doctor. The dramatic tragedy of the couple’s marriage falling apart and its effect on their four children is expertly contrasted with Aparicio’s woes, treated with affection by her employers who also never forget that she is there to serve, keeping her eye on her duties while suffering her own personal relationship devastation. The spaces in which the drama plays out are as fascinating as the characters who inhabit them, from the grand family home to the country estate where they spend a holiday, or the barren landscape of the young woman’s village, while a number of magnificent sequences take place on crowded streets or busy furniture stores touched with a sense of dark magic that is emphasized by the rich monochrome photography. The main character is the central embodiment of it all, her stoic facial expressions almost a part of the architecture of the home that she is the emotional centre of, while the family’s being so intimate with her while never really knowing her personally is devastating thanks to Cuaron’s intelligently subtle manner of keeping a faint diving line between master and servant at even the most generous moments. Every bit of this film is touched with enchantment, but it’s a spell that breaks your heart.