By Morgan Roberts
In the new AppleTV+ series, universal womanhood issues are tackled in varying metaphorical ways. “Roar” (2022), the new anthology series from Liz Flahive and Carly Mensch, has everything from a woman becoming invisible to others to a woman falling in love with an abusive duck to a woman sitting on a shelf like a trophy. Flahive and Mensch previously wrote and produced Showtime’s “Nurse Jackie” and more recently created the Netflix hit series, “GLOW.” Their work has always been feministic. They have never been afraid to highlight the frustrations and rage of womanhood. And “Roar” joins in the depiction of the messiness and complexity of existing as a woman in the world.
Even when the allegories choose to be a bit on the nose, the series particularly excels with its truly memorable and poignant moments. There are many moments that will have audiences gasping in surprise or having a small crisis in recognition of truth. With a an impressive ensemble comprising of Alison Brie, Cynthia Erivo, Betty Gilpin, Kara Hayward, Nicole Kidman, Issa Rae, Five Stewart, Meera Syal, and Merritt Wever, the show shines when playing to the strengths of its actresses.
For instance, this might be one of my favorite Kidman performances as of late. She portrays a woman who eats photographs as she is sandwiched between life-altering changes. This episode gave Kidman the chance to highlight what makes her such a captivating performer. It’s grounded and moving.
Gilpin’s episode is also a standout as the aforementioned woman on a shelf which features some wacky and wild physical comedy. This is the third time Gilpin has worked with Flahive and Mensch. Their familiarity with her range shows as Gilpin gives a radiant performance in this offbeat episode that is part-fairytale, part-nightmare.
While not every episode will strike a chord with everyone, audience members are certain to find the episode that speaks to them. You are sure to find a “Roar” fable that will move them, unsettle them, or make them feel just a little less crazy in the madness of the world.
What the series highlights are some universal issues many women face. Whether it is violence against women, women’s voices (particularly Black women’s voices) being silenced, our physicality seen as the only means of defining our worth, or the guilt of trying to have it all as a working mother, “Roar” examines many societal pressures and issues woman must deal with. The metaphors can be powerful representations of these, such as the horror of watching bite marks increasingly appear on Erivo’s character in her episode or the Western episode where women reclaim the “damsel in distress” trope.
Each episode is directed by a different female filmmaker from Channing Godfrey Peoples to So Yong Kim to Rashida Jones. Each filmmaker adds a specific eye and vision, which adds to the uniqueness of every episode. The episodes are connected together by the incredible score by Isobel Waller-Bridge. While the scores differ to match the tone of the different stories, her signature marks are weaved in throughout. Her score certainly elevates the material to make it as fantastical or sinister as it needs to be.
“Roar” may not have a consistent hold on every audience member, but, overall, it is a series that showcases the many trials and tribulations of women. “Roar” provides audiences a glimpse at what women grapple with. The way in which women perseverance in the face of adversity or absurdity. Each episode feels like a fresh and different take on feminism and femininity. For fans of Flahive and Mensch’s previous work, this is a continuation of their ode to women. With some outstanding performances, distinctive direction, and a stellar score, “Roar” is a boldly imaginative watch.
“Roar” premiers on AppleTV+ on 15 April 2022.