LFF 2020: Rose: A Love Story – Review

Release Date – TBC, Cert – N/A, Run-time – 1 hour 26 minutes, Director – Jennifer Sheridan

Sam (Matt Stokoe) and Rose (Sophie Rundle) live in isolation in the hills above a small town, hiding a dark secret in their small cabin.

Director Jennifer Sheridan makes her feature debut with Rose: A Love Story, a film that adds to the increasing amount of features using horror elements and suggestions to heighten suspense and drama within a story. Throughout the film it’s hinted that Rose (Sophie Rundle) has something more than a mysterious illness. She lives in isolation, in a small cabin in the hills with her husband Sam (screenwriter Matt Stokoe). Sam only occasionally leaves to go to the nearby town where he buys supplies, petrol and other basic necessities. Although, largely they rely on what he catches when hunting in the area for food. There’s a deeply mysterious side to the pair and their odd behaviours – Sam regularly goes to casually read while leeches attach to his legs in a corner room – that adds to the potentially dark side of not just their relationship but their behaviours as a whole.

Throughout there are hints and suggestions that everything is not as it seems and that a dark secret is being kept. Over the short course of the narrative there’s an eerie sense to the couple – and Sam’s responses to conversations he overhears while in the town, there’s a risk that they’re going to be discovered and something bad, potentially uncontrollable, is going to be unleashed without warning. Sam’s behaviours and often fight-or-flight responses to everything around him create a shadowy figure and boost the potentially dark edge that the film holds, one which keeps you invested throughout.

If this were simply a two-hander, which for a number of scenes it is, then this may not work as well. While the scenes between Stokoe and Rundle work well and their shady performances work well together in some of the more intense sequences as the darkness and solitude of the living space seems to get to them. Their anger clearly boosts, especially for Sam, while Rose feels the cold of the outside environment which she barely ever sees, while she works on her novel it doesn’t serve as a distraction. If anything it reminds her of her illness, making her isolation worse. Of course, contact with the outside world looms, with people becoming more and more interested – especially after a number of unfortunate collisions – in the outsiders in town.

It all adds to the build-up that the film creates as it leads to forming a big reveal. The line on the way there isn’t exactly scary, but that doesn’t seem to be what the film is aiming for. It’s a short film and the run-time very much works in its favour, there’s a bit of context but some scenes do feel more like build-up than anything else. And while much of the film works well in keeping a consistent tone and feel throughout the majority of the story and substance is build-up. It works well enough and there’s certainly some engaging elements within the light horror injected mystery and general eerie nature of the piece. And certainly as events pick up and people come closer to discovering Sam and Rose the audience learns along with them, things pick up, and so does the horror. It all leads to something well worth the wait as the elements come together around the halfway point and the detail increases. Luckily, thanks to the short well-paced run-time it doesn’t take too long for such things to get going,

While the first half feels like mostly mysterious build-up the second half of Rose: A Love Story brings in more horror elements and the suspense and eerie tone helps form something worth the wait as each dark turn has unfortunate light shed on it for the characters.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

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