The best movies on Netflix right now (March 2019)

Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master is a film that defies easy analysis. From a distance, it may seem like a film about a cult — it sparked controversy before release, when reports led people to believe it was a film about Scientology — but as Anderson’s yarn unspools, slowly and carefully, the film’s focus becomes clearer: This is a film about the primal need for connection. The film opens on Freddie Quell (Joaquin Phoenix), a sailor who, in the days after World War II, drifts through society like a stray dog, boozing and fighting, unable to settle down. Passing by a docked ship whose inhabitants are having a party, Freddie sneaks aboard, and stumbles into the orbit of Lancaster Dodd (Philip Seymour Hoffman), an author who has attracted a number of people to his new movement, The Cause. Dodd draws Freddie to his side, and as The Cause grows, the two develop an intense fascination with each other. 

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Alfonso Cuaron’s Roma opens quietly, the camera staring, motionless, at a tile floor as the credits play; eventually, water pours over the floor, as the sound of a mop spills in from just offscreen. It’s a boldly mundane opening, fitting for a film about an ordinary woman. Roma follows Cleo (Yalitza Aparicio), a maid working in the household of a wealthy doctor, Antonio (Fernando Grediaga) and his wife, Sofia (Marina de Tavira). Cleo cleans the house, tends to the children, and keeps the household running as Antonio and Sofia’s marriage strains. Cleo is the type of character typically relegated to the background of stories like this, but Cuaron makes her the focus, depicting her daily labor and struggles with a surprise pregnancy and unreliable lover. It’s a beautiful film, delicately composed and shot in stark black and white.