'Roar' review: Nicole Kidman anthology is 'Black Mirror' for the female form

·4-min read
Nicole Kidman in new anthology series Roar. (Apple TV+)
Nicole Kidman in new anthology series Roar. (Apple TV+)

'I am woman hear me roar, in numbers too big to ignore', might seem like an odd inspirational footnote on the way to creating an anthology show, but not for Roar a new show from Apple TV+ — releasing on 15 April.

Lifting a single word from the lyrics to Helen Reddy's 1972 song 'I Am Woman', writer producers Liz Flahive and Carly Mensch use Roar like a rallying cry to women everywhere. Giving audiences a series of interconnected stories exploring distinctive female experiences, which seek to educate, enlighten and entertain.

Executive produced in part by Nicole Kidman, who also features prominently in one episode, Roar proves to be a provocative piece of film making, looking to lift the lid on what being a woman today really means.

A creative proposition that offers up no easy answers, as it revels in unravelling the conundrum of the female in all her forms.

In many ways Roar possesses the same tranquillity as Amazon limited series Tales from the Loop. It exudes a self-assurance in the approach to this subject, which will immediately put audiences at ease, as these film makers seek to unpack the issues.

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Whether looking to address racial identity and the consolidation of colour into the entertainment experience, through episode one, or unpacking discussions around dementia in episode two, Roar is never less than riveting.

Roar (Apple TV+)
Cynthia Erivo in Roar. (Apple TV+)

There are no wrong turns made on this narrative road, as memories from a female perspective are given relevance, offered room to breathe and most importantly, soon cease to be considered as a specific gender issue at all.

Featuring Oscar-nominee Cynthia Erivo in a tale which feels more like Jordan Peele in origin, issues of emotional depth are literally leave a mark, when a mother returns to work. Debates around empowerment, diminishment and parental roles in modern society are metaphorically dissected, while the mechanics of breastfeeding are debated in the process.

Betty Gilpin and Daniel Dae Kim in Roar. (Apple TV+)
Betty Gilpin and Daniel Dae Kim in Roar. (Apple TV+)

Other areas which fall under the dramatic microscope in this insightful Apple original series include objectification. Whether that means admiration in its most obvious sense, or the display of beauty as a trophy for others to admire, no punches are pulled in deconstructing this outmoded approach to the female form.

A trend which continues as Roar breaks down misconceptions, addresses modern day fallacies and mixes pathos with equal amounts of contemporary relevance.

Brie Larson in Roar. (Apple TV+)
Brie Larson in Roar. (Apple TV+)

As this series debates each new facet with increasing levels of visual invention, it all starts to coalesce into something far more cohesive, rather than just being a thought-provoking collection of female centric fables.

It becomes clear that matters of memory, notions of identity and instances of personal prejudice take on a universal truth. Roar may primarily be about the female experience, with specific focus on relationships, motherhood and feminine beauty, but it offers more than that for those willing to engage.

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It may also have some serious A-list talent backing it to the hilt, but Roar is more than just some polished navel gazing destined to be celebrated in brief before disappearing from view. In anthology terms, this does for the female form what Black Mirror did for social taboos.

Merritt Weaver in Roar. (Apple TV+)
Merritt Weaver in Roar. (Apple TV+)

The Woman Who Ate Photographs, the Nicole Kidman episode, possesses all the life affirming qualities of Charlie Brooker’s San Junipero, which many people still consider to be the highlight of Black Mirror’s third season. There also shades of Michael Almereyda’s Marjorie Prime in that episode, which saw Lois Smith and Jon Hamm make such an unforgettable on-screen pairing.

At every turn this series unlocks another facet of femininity and delivers another tale with perfect tonal balance. With stand out performances from an ensemble cast who embody rather than simply portray these people, Roar brings more to the table with each new episode.

With a beguiling concoction of solid storytelling and allegorical segues, this Apple original series is guaranteed to bewitch anyone who tunes in. Not only making it an entertaining piece of high-minded drama, but also managing to remind people what television is really about.

Meera Syal in Roar. (Apple TV+)
Meera Syal in Roar. (Apple TV+)

It also seeks to redress the balance and restore order, by giving a voice to women who have stories to tell. In so doing, Apple are taking another step towards being the best kept secret in streaming entertainment, by offering up specifically tailored content for people who want more from their platform provider.

It may be true that these choices are only possible because of some very deep pockets, but without serious amounts of savvy money means nothing. A fact audiences should bear in mind when they sit down to enjoy this dramatic little gem.

Roar debuts on Apple TV+ on Friday, 15 April.

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