The film of the year is here

The Timaru Herald - - $ -

Roma (M, 135 mins) Di­rected by Al­fonso Cuaron Re­viewed by Graeme Tuck­ett ★★★★★

Roma takes place over a few months in 1970 and 1971. We are in Mex­ico City, em­bed­ded in the lives of a mod­estly pros­per­ous Euro­peanMex­i­can fam­ily and their staff.

In­side the house, a mar­riage is slowly im­plod­ing. Out­side, ri­ots and po­lice bru­tal­ity are a part of the daily fab­ric of life.

Al­fonso Cuaron’s semi­au­to­bi­o­graph­i­cal tale starts slowly. The char­ac­ters and set­tings are un­hur­riedly sketched in. A few mo­ments that will pay off gor­geously – a car park­ing in a garage, a marching band of tune­less pom­pos­ity – are teased into ex­is­tence.

In the past decade or so, Cuaron has be­come one of the very best film-mak­ers of his gen­er­a­tion. Roma finds Cuaron back home, in a place he last vis­ited in his ex­quis­ite Y Tu Mama Tam­bien, but now with a full arse­nal of hard-earned cine­matic wiz­ardry to draw on.

The sin­gle-shot set-pieces in Chil­dren of Men and Grav­ity are leg­endary. But Roma is tech­nique pared back to the es­sen­tials. As great chefs aim for per­fec­tion with ever fewer in­gre­di­ents, so Cuaron is build­ing some of the most as­ton­ish­ing mo­ments I have ever seen on a screen from an ab­so­lute min­i­mum of mov­ing parts.

A visit to a fur­ni­ture store to buy a cot sets up a se­quence that will be dis­sected by film stu­dents for years.

A visit to a beach be­comes a scene of such dread and beauty I lit­er­ally stopped breath­ing un­til it was re­solved.

At its heart, Roma is a film about the women and moth­ers who keep the world turn­ing no mat­ter what dis­hon­esty, bel­liger­ence, nar­cis­sism, and pos­tur­ing, the men in their lives throw at them.

Roma is as­suredly a love let­ter from Cuaron to the Mex­ico of his child­hood, but it is also a mis­sive of in­fi­nite ado­ra­tion and re­spect to the women who raised him.

The term ‘‘master­piece’’ gets chucked around far too loosely, and I mostly try to avoid it. But once in a lucky blue moon, there re­ally are no other words to do a film jus­tice.

Roma is the best film I have seen this year. Go watch it in a cin­ema while you can. Ghost Sto­ries (M, 98 mins) Di­rected by Jeremy Dyson and Andy Ny­man Re­viewed by Graeme Tuck­ett

With the likes of The Haunt­ing of Hill House avail­able at a flick of your TV re­mote, it must be chal­leng­ing to make orig­i­nal hor­ror movies for the big screen. But there is def­i­nitely a mini golden-age of hor­ror hap­pen­ing right now. A Quiet Place, Raw, The Babadook, Hered­i­tary and even the re­cent Hal­loween re­launch, have all found – and de­served – their au­di­ence.

Mean­while, The Con­jur­ing fran­chise and its many mokop­una are at least tech­ni­cally very com­pe­tent, and writ­ten with a re­fresh­ing aware­ness of ex­actly what they were put on this Earth to do. So can a British in­die based on a stage play mus­cle in and make a buck here in God­zone? I hope so be­cause A Ghost Story has plenty to like about it.

The film is a loose tril­ogy of sto­ries, con­nected by a scep­ti­cal ‘‘para­nor­mal in­ves­ti­ga­tor’’ who is out to de­bunk any­thing su­per­nat­u­ral. But when he is chal­lenged by his age­ing men­tor – now liv­ing alone in a car­a­van and clearly hous­ing a few pos­sums in his top branches – to find an ex­pla­na­tion for three par­tic­u­lar cases, our man Phillip (Andy Ny­man, who co-directs) has no choice but to get to work.

The first case in­volves a night­watch­man at a derelict hospi­tal, haunted by a vi­sion of a young woman who may be chan­nelling his own paral­ysed and co­matose daugh­ter.

The se­cond fea­tures a young man who is con­vinced he is cursed af­ter run­ning down a mys­te­ri­ous fig­ure on a coun­try road.

And the third – which stars Mar­tin Free­man – is a grim retelling of a pol­ter­geist and at least one tragic death.

Un­til this point, Ghost Sto­ries plays as an an­thol­ogy movie and I was un­der­whelmed as I waited for the cred­its to roll. But writ­ers and di­rec­tors Ny­man and Jeremy Dyson have saved the best – an ex­pla­na­tion of sorts – for last.

And fi­nally I be­gan to ap­pre­ci­ate why Ghost Sto­ries played to packed the­atres for more than a year. If you’re still pay­ing at­ten­tion at about the 80-minute mark, you’re in for a treat.

Ghost Sto­ries isn’t quite on a par with the very best of the re­cent hor­ror re­nais­sance, but it de­liv­ers its share of shiv­ers and jumps with a re­strained in­ven­tive­ness I truly ap­pre­ci­ated.

Roma takes place in Mex­ico City over a few months in 1970 and 1971.

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