A unique take on an old tale, Rose is a smart vampire story with both relevance and bite
Gripped by a mysterious illness that causes her to have a violent thirst for blood, Rose and her husband Sam live an isolated life together in a cabin deep in the woods. With a carefully planned routine they’ve built a home in which they can live safely and without public attention – but their refuge is put at risk when a stranger comes into their lives. Reading like a horror but presenting as a carefully played out study of a relationship – seriously, its full title is Rose: A Love Story – this debut feature from British director Jennifer Sheridan is beautifully made, cleverly written and nothing like what you might expect.
Personally I loved the unique take of the couple treating Rose’s affliction as if it as an illness rather than anything supernatural – it grounds it in a realism that is extremely uncommon in gothic fiction. Sam (Matt Stokoe – also the writer of the film) and Rose (Sophie Rundle) have a careful routine of separation, sterilisation and precaution to keep her away from any blood. It’s reminiscent of the methodical cleaning a surgical team do before going into theatre – or the disinfecting routine everyone is now doing due to covid – an auspicious coincidence for a film that has been several years in the making! Their isolated life of farming, hunting and cleaning is well thought out and attention is given to the notion of just how you would learn to get on with it if you were a vampire.
The two leads performances are tender and sweet with a steely grit beneath them when things take a turn. They play out the relatable exhausted but determined mentality of a family dealing with a chronic illness – it’s an interesting study on what it means to genuinely love someone without reservation. The fact that Rundle and Stokoe are a couple in real life certainly doesn’t hurt either – there is no shortage of chemistry on screen.
Filmed on location in Wales Rose has some stunning desolate forest scenes and a cleverly designed set for the house which contains lots of subtle clues to Rose’s true nature – slowly revealed to the viewer bit by bit. It’s well paced with a subtle simmering dread bubbling away beneath the surface. A tight 90 minutes of great entertainment with a climactic scene that genuinely made my jaw drop.
Rose: A Love Story is the most original bloodsucker film I’ve seen in years; deft, multifaceted and the signal of an exciting new talent in British filmmaking.
Rose has it’s world premiere at the BFI London Film Festival on 13th October 2020. It’s wider release date has yet to be confirmed.