One of the strengths of Rose: A Love Story are the cast who each give compelling performances. Although you’d expect the focus to be on Sophie Rundle’s titular character, the film mostly belongs to writer Matt Stokoe, who takes on the role of her husband. The film follows him on his day-to-day business and Stokoe brings a brooding quality to his part. It is a shame that the script never finds a way to properly concentrate on Rundle’s character as she is great here, giving a heart breaking turn that you really feel should have received more screen time. As a late entry to the story Olive Gray nevertheless leaves an impression, even if her part isn’t given the space to properly expand on an engaging first impression.
But really the cast are fighting against a script that wilfully pulls away from offering material, all in the pursuit of hiding the subgenre the film is part of. The first act is a moodily enjoyable affair and there is an admirable distancing going on, where audiences are drawn in trying to understand what exactly is going on here. But this sense of mystery soon sours as we wait and wait and wait for something to happen. And when the reveal comes of what is actually going on, very late in the film, it’ll be a crossroad for those watching. You’ll either go with the film or, as in my case, you’ll be left exasperated by the time spent to reach the climax.
Director Jennifer Sheridan (making her feature debut here) shows a keen eye in creating a mood for Rose: A Love Story and there is some interesting world building going on here. Martyna Knitter’s cinematography even manages a well-mounted sheen, particularly in some of the night-time sequences. The problem, though, lies in a focusing of the film. For all the technical quality brought behind-the-scenes, it all feels moot when the film doesn’t do justice to its eponymous would-be focal point, a deficit that begins at a script level and bleeds out.
You want Rose: A Love Story to be better. You want it to grip more and be a more engaging reappraisal of the horror genre. But it really left this viewer frustrated and, in its climax, irritated. There is talent to be found here but it is not served by a creative choice early on that breaks the film. Add to this an approach to the genre that is not as innovative as the film thinks it is and Rose: A Love Story left this viewer utterly frustrated.