Saturday, April 17, 2021

Rose: A Love Story – review

Director: Jennifer Sheridan

Release date: 2020

Contains spoilers

I stumbled over this film and, when I looked into it I found a lot of reviews suggesting that not knowing what the film’s ‘twist’ is about is better when going into it. At this point I would normally apologise and say that the fact that I am reviewing the film spoils the ‘twist’.

However, not so. The underlying truth of the central protagonists – and the ailment afflicting Rose (Sophie Rundle) is broadcast through the early part of the film, not with a sledgehammer to be fair, but a genre fan will know what’s going on early into the story. I think the trouble is that with the phrase “a Love Story” in the original title and with it being marketed (on Amazon for instance) as a suspense rather than horror film perhaps viewers less au fait with the displayed tropes see the final confirmation as a twist.

Matt Stokoe as Sam

What did throw me was the fact that this is a UK set film, I expected to be in the wilds of the US with a couple living off the grid. It starts with Sam (Matt Stokoe) leaving the cabin with a gun and hard locking the door. Inside Rose sleeps and dreams of an animal (I suspect a wolf, we only see a very close image of eye and fur, the image appears once more in film) and then a rabbit. She awakens and Sam, still by the cabin, hears a movement clattering the strings of dangling CDs and cutlery surrounding the house, a rudimentary alarm system, he swings the gun but perhaps it is the wind? He heads into the woods checking his traps – he has caught three rabbits.

veins on finger

At home Rose has sat trying to write on her typewriter – she is creating a novel. He comes in with the rabbits already skinned and gutted, bagged individually. After conversation, where she sends him to have a bath and where his comment about her looking lovely today is taken badly, she gets a mask out and puts liquid inside (for a masking scent) before donning it and opening a bag to start preparing a rabbit. She accidentally cuts her finger and we see that, firstly, she doesn’t bleed and, secondly, a network of veins appear on the surface of her skin as the cut heals.

patiently leeched

Out of his bath, Sam takes a jar of leeches out of a cupboard. He retires to a room with UV lights on and places some leeches onto his leg, opening a book and reading as they suck his blood. In an outer (red lighted) room we see the silhouette of Rose watching him, when he looks up from his book she is gone. Later, as he eats rabbit and veggies, she has a bowl with blood and crushed leeches. To be honest, if you haven’t worked out that she is a vampire (or living variant thereof) at this point then you haven’t been paying attention.

a glimpse in the dark

The film concentrates mostly on the pressure the lifestyle is placing on the couple. We also see that she has to avoid anything that could trigger a vampiric reaction – scent and hunger mostly. At one point she is hungry; he has been out and she couldn’t get into the jar of blood/leeches. He comes back to find her stood motionless in the dark (the generator ran out of fuel), her eyes misted, veins in her face prominent and chattering animalistically. He snaps her out of it by cutting his own hand and putting a cloth to her face that the blood can seep through – indicating that the disease she has is virulent and he cannot let her feed directly.

Olive Gray as Amber

There is also a run-in with a young man (Nathan McMullen) who was meant to bring petrol and mail (a new supply of leeches) on behalf of the person who normally comes and rips Sam off for £200. This forces Sam out into the world to get the petrol himself and, finding the bloke, extracting a violent retribution. This run-in is not the catalyst for the ending (though it feeds into a coda) rather a runaway girl, Amber (Olive Gray), gets caught in a trap, which breaks her leg forcing them to help her, and her presence causes the status quo to fall apart.

Sophie Rundle as Rose

I liked the film. The leads are actually a couple in real life and therefore there was a chemistry between Sam and Rose, but the fictional couple are at a point where the stress of living in a darkened cabin (there are no windows letting in light), off the grid and dealing with the difficulties of her illness, have all conspired to make them less sympathetic in the eyes of the viewer – especially Sam, who has devolved into a level of grumpiness and social ineptitude despite himself.

eating leeches

As noted, the vampirism is an illness (I assume viral, especially given the release date being during the covid pandemic, and aspects like her wearing a mask protecting others from her spoke to this) and highly contagious (through saliva, I guess), there is a sunlight aspect and heightened senses (she senses that Amber is 2 months pregnant) and, of course, a need for blood. The use of the leeches might be slightly reminiscent of Dracula 2001, though somewhat inverted, but was really rather clever. There isn’t much else lore-wise and we never discover how she came to contract this illness nor how they coped with it on first infection.

vamp face

This is slow paced virtually all the way through, so be warned on that count, and there isn’t much in the way of horror (hence not being marketed as such, I guess), bar perhaps at the very end. Indeed it is more of a couple-drama than anything else. The coda shows us that the filmmakers had not forgotten Sam’s altercation but equally, being based on a briefly violent event during the film, one expected more of it. Nevertheless, a respectable 6 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.

On Demand @ Amazon UK

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