REVIEW: Rose – A Love Story (2020)

dir. Jennifer Sheridan.

“It doesn’t matter how much you love someone,” says one character in the third act of Rose: A Love Story, “if it all gets too much you can fuck off”. Exactly what constitutes “too much” is at the heart of Jennifer Sheridan’s aching debut, and whether there is a point where love ends.

It’s a question which reclusive couple Rose (Sophie Rundle, Gentleman Jack) and Sam (writer Matt Stokoe) explicitly wrestle with. Hidden away from the world in the snowy wilderness Rose is battling a debilitating – but unnamed – condition, one which causes her to hide from sunlight in their boarded up cabin and drink Sam’s blood which he carefully harvests with leeches. It doesn’t take a genius to detect vampiric tropes, though crucially this label is never invoked, Rose’s fragility framed more as some obscure progressive illness which Sam is trying to desperately accommodate.

Things are getting worse however, and Rose knows it. The language of their conversations may not be of demonic monsters, but has the air of terminality: Rose wants Sam to still have a life; Sam refuses to leave her side. There’s a vulnerability to these exchanges, played beautifully by Rundle and Stokoe as two people swimming in dark waters and trying – falteringly – to name the big fish which keep brushing in-between them.

With it’s wintery backdrop and romantic through-line Rose invites comparisons to Alfredson’s Let The Right One In (2008), though the direction taken here is more concerned with the domesticity of horror, the purity of Sam and Rose’s connection never in doubt. Rather things come to crisis when a stranger shatters their solitude, threatening both exposure but also perhaps a way for one or both of them to help someone else.

Premiering at last year’s London Film Festival Rose emerges as less monster movie, more nuanced relationship drama of one couple’s journey through a degenerative diagnosis. If at times light on tension compensation lies in the connection between the two leads and the lasting impression that some commitments are deeper than the grave.

Tim Coleman

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