‘Roma’: Alfonso Cuaron’s guide to watching his Oscar-ready, Spanish-language Netflix drama

NEW YORK – “Roma,” ooh-la-la. 

While audiences have been weeping over Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper’s bad romance in “A Star Is Born,” another tear-jerker has emerged as the movie to beat this awards season: “Roma,” Netflix’s black-and-white, Spanish-language gamble, which has been breathlessly hailed as a masterpiece since it debuted at Venice Film Festival. 

The understated yet gut-wrenching drama, which has sterling reviews (99 percent positive) on Rotten Tomatoes, charts a year in the life of Cleo (newcomer Yalitza Aparicio), a live-in maid for a middle-class family in 1970s Mexico City.

Already in theaters in New York and Los Angeles, the film expands to additional cities Thursday before arriving Dec. 14 on Netflix, which hopes it’ll be the streaming service’s first major Oscar victory. (Experts on awards site GoldDerby.com unanimously predict “Roma” will earn a best-picture nomination.)

The warm reception “has been a beautiful surprise,” says writer/director Alfonso Cuaron, returning to the Oscar race after 2013’s “Gravity,” for which he won best director. “What has been amazing has been the emotional response to the film. It just shows that the human experience is one and the same.” 

But selling most moviegoers on a slow-burning, subtitled period piece will be an uphill battle, and Netflix’s refusal to release streaming and box-office numbers makes it tough to truly gauge the success of “Roma.” If you’re still on the fence about watching, Cuaron, 57, shares a comprehensive guide to everything you should know before diving in.

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