There’s al­ways some hes­i­ta­tion on my part to watch films that aren’t in English. Surprisingly, that even ex­tends to Spanish (even though I’m tech­ni­cally flu­ent). I feel I’m not al­ways able to make a con­nec­tion with the story and char­ac­ters. Roma is no such film, and I was cap­ti­vated for its com­plete 135-minute run­time.

Alfonso Cuarón, who di­rected, pro­duced, wrote and edited this film, made some fan­tas­tic and bold choices. Roma is en­tirely in black and white. Without color, cin­e­matog­ra­phy, writ­ing, and the ac­tors’ per­for­mances be­come that much more crit­i­cal.

This cast rises to the chal­lenge. All the kids are great, but the ob­vi­ous stand­out is Yalitza Aparicio. I’m as­tounded that this is her first role. She’s so ex­pres­sive. You see the char­ac­ter’s love, an­guish, fear, and loss so clearly on her face that you can’t help but be moved.

Editing is some­thing I don’t usu­ally no­tice, but you can’t help but do so here. Cuarón and Adam Gough give scenes plenty of space, which is a tech­nique I of­ten see in nar­ra­tive-dri­ven pod­casts. This space is a sto­ry­telling method which al­lows for the in­for­ma­tion to sink in, there­fore giv­ing the au­di­ence time to fig­ure out how they feel.

Further show­ing Alfonso Cuarón’s ge­nius is his in­cred­i­ble vi­sion for the cin­e­matog­ra­phy. Many beau­ti­ful shots help you see and un­der­stand Mexican life. Some scenes de­pict the stark con­trast be­tween the lives of this mid­dle-class fam­ily, their friends, and every­one else.

The end­ing is the fi­nal touch of bril­liance for the film. Hollywood is so ob­sessed with but­ton­ing every­thing up—giv­ing every movie a hap­pily ever af­ter. Life is­n’t like that. Life is dif­fi­cult, and some­times there’s noth­ing we can do to change our cir­cum­stances; we have to try to make the best of our cur­rent ones.

Roma is a must-see film.