Devoted Nanny Dotes on Kids in Dysfunctional Family Drama
Cleo Gutierrez (Yalitza Aparicio) is one of two live-in maids maintaining the home of Antonio (Fernando Grediaga) and Sofia (Marina de Tavira), a couple in crisis with four young children. They can afford the help, which includes a chauffeur, because Antonio is a prominent physician. But they also need the staff because Antonio spends so much time supposedly attending “conferences in Canada.”
The delinquent dad explains his absence to the kids as being away on business. However, his long-suffering wife suspects that he’s just up to monkey business with his mistress, which explains why she’s not above begging him to cancel a trip. Luckily, Sofia has a shoulder to cry on in her mother, Teresa (Veronica Garcia), who lives with the family.
Meanwhile, Cleo and her fellow nanny, Adela (Nancy Garcia), dutifully assume the bulk of the child-rearing and housekeeping duties. Both women hail from humble roots, yet they dream of someday escaping their lowly station to start families of their own—and each has a romantic interest. Cleo’s is Fermin (Jorge Antonio Guerrero), a cousin of Adela’s boyfriend, Ramon (Jose Manuel Guerrero Mendoza).
The plot thickens the evening the two couples go on a double date to a movie theater. Against her better judgment, Cleo leaves early with Fermin, who has reserved a motel room where they share an evening of passionate sex. Cleo becomes pregnant, and a moment of truth arrives when Fermin reacts badly to the news that he’s about to become a father. So, now she has to worry whether she’ll be fired when she tells Sofia that she’s pregnant.
Thus unfolds Roma, a semi-autobiographical, dysfunctional family drama written and directed by Alfonso Cuaron. Set in Mexico City in the ‘70s, this impressionistic saga shot in black & white more than makes up in atmosphere what it might lack in meaningful dialogue. Kudos to Cuaron for crafting such a visually-captivating, surreal memoir of his troubled coming of age!
Excellent (4 stars)
Rated R for profanity, disturbing images, and graphic nudity
In Spanish with subtitles.
Running time: 135 minutes
Production Companies: Esperanto Filmoj / Participant Media
Star-Crossed Lovers Repeatedly Rendezvous in Polish Postwar Drama
Poland, 1949. The countryside is still devastated by the blight left behind in the wake of World War II. It is amidst these ruins that we find young Zula Lichon (Joanna Kulig) auditioning for a spot in the national entertainment ensemble.
The aspiring singer-dancer only survives the tryout because the repertory company’s powerful musical director, Wiktor Warski (Tomasz Kot), is quite taken by her beauty. Zula, in turn, is quite flattered by the attention being lavished on her by her handsome and relatively sophisticated advocate, even though he’s old enough to be her father.
Before long, the two become intimate, indulging in animal magnetism during stolen moments between their traveling troupe’s performances at various ports of call behind the Iron Curtain. Sadly, they are far less passionate about their work than they are about each other.
That’s because the group finds itself pressured into stage productions that are pure propaganda, given how Poland, as part of the Soviet bloc, is under the thumb of Stalinist Russia. In fact, the political paranoia of the era so deeply affects Zula, that she meets weekly with a Communist Party boss (Lech Kaczmarek) to secretly snitch on her unsuspecting lover’s conduct.
The jaded artists hatch a plan to defect to the West in 1952 following a concert in East Berlin. But when only one of the two follows through with the plan, they end up separated and terribly frustrated for the next dozen years.
Thus unfolds Cold War, a melancholy masterpiece written and directed by Pawel Pawlikowski. His previous picture, Ida, won the Best Foreign Film Oscar in 2015. This black & white romance drama deservedly landed a trio of Oscar nominations, in the Foreign Film, Director and Cinematography categories.
Between a sobering score and haunting settings, Pawlikowski has created the perfect backdrop for a maudlin postmortem contemplating the fate of a couple of star-crossed lovers.
Excellent (4 stars)
Rated R for sexuality, nudity, and profanity
In Polish, French, Russian, German, Italian, and Croatian
Running time: 89 minutes
Production Companies: Opus Films / Polish Film Institute / Film4 / BFI / MK2 Films
Distributor: Amazon Studios
OPENING THIS WEEK
Weekly Previews That Make Choosing a Film Fun
For movies opening March 1, 2019
Greta (R for violence and disturbing images) Suspense thriller, set in NYC, about a naive young woman (Chloe Grace Moretz) who unwittingly befriends a widow with an evil agenda (Isabelle Huppert) whose pocketbook she found on the subway. With Maika Monroe, Colm Feore, and Stephen Rea.
A Madea Family Funeral (PG-13 for profanity, crude sexuality, and pervasive drug use) Tyler Perry’s back as the sassy granny for this raucous comedy set in rural Georgia, where a joyous family reunion is unexpectedly marred by tragedy. Co-starring Cassi Davis, Patrice Lovely, and Mike Tyson.
INDEPENDENT & FOREIGN FILMS
Apollo 11 (Unrated) IMAX documentary revisiting NASA’s historic 1969 mission, the first spaceflight to land on the moon. Featuring archival footage of astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins.
The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind (Unrated) Chiwetel Ejiofor makes his directorial debut with this adaptation of Malawi’s William Kamkwamba’s memoir about saving his village from famine at the age of 13 by building a wind turbine. Cast includes Ejiofor, Maxwell Simba, Lily Banda, and Aissa Maiga.
Climax (R for disturbing content including profanity, graphic nudity and sexuality, drug use, and violence) Horror musical set at an abandoned boarding school where a dance troupe’s party is sabotaged by a bowl of sangria laced with LSD. Ensemble cast includes Sofia Boutella, Romain Guillermic, Kiddy Smile, Giselle Palmer, and Taylor Castle. (In French and English with subtitles)
Furie (Unrated) Action thriller about an ex-assassin (Veronica Ngo) who comes out of retirement to rescue her young daughter kidnapped by a sex-trafficking ring. With Hoa Tran, Mai Cat Vi, and Thanh Nhien Phan. (In Vietnamese with subtitles)
Saint Judy (Unrated) Michelle Monaghan portrays the title character in this reverential biopic about immigration attorney Judy Wood, who has single-handedly saved the lives of thousands of female refugees by successfully lobbying for changes in the United States’ asylum laws. Supporting cast includes Common, Mykelti Williamson, Alfred Molina, and Alfre Woodard.
Styx (Unrated) Seafaring thriller about a German ER physician (Susanne Wolff) sailing solo on the Atlantic Ocean who diverts her boat to come to the aid of 100 shipwrecked refugees. With Alexander Beyer, Inga Birkenfeld, and Gedion Oduor Wekesa. (In English and German with subtitles)
Transit (Unrated) Adaptation of Anna Segher’s novel of the same name, set in Marseilles, about a German refugee (Franz Rogowski) who falls in love with the widow (Paula Beer) of the recently-deceased writer whose identity he’s assumed. Cast includes Godehard Giese, Lilien Batman, and Maryam Zaree. (In German, French, and sign language)
The Wedding Guest (R for profanity, violence, and brief nudity) Dev Patel plays the title character in this suspense thriller about a shadowy figure who travels from England to Pakistan to kidnap a Muslim bride-to-be (Radhike Apte). With Jim Sarbh, Harish Khanna, and Nish Nathwani.
This Week’s Home Video Releases for February 26, 2019
1) Ralph Breaks the Internet
3) Ships [Ferahfeza]
5) Mary Queen of Scots
6) Animal Kingdom: The Complete Third Season
7) Between Worlds
8) The Possession of Hannah Grace
9) Mystery Road: Series 1
10) The Vengeance of She