This article was last modified on October 11, 2020.


NIGHTSTREAM review: ROSE PLAYS JULIE

An adopted girl (Ann Skelly) seeks out her birth mother (Orla Brady, FRINGE), only to be told her mother has no desire to meet her. But this only begins the difficult emotional journey.

From the literature: “Directors Christine Molloy and Jow Lawlor, also known as Desperate Optimists, have spent years making formally rigorous, atmospheric cinema that often deals with the uncanny effects of impersonation and the slippery nature of truth. With ROSE PLAYS JULIE (2019) they have crafted a slow-burn thriller that builds a sense of dread inside an exquisite world of immaculate architecture, rendered through an icy performance style and enveloped by a claustrophobic soundtrack.”

The purpose of a publicist is to talk up a film, and often exaggerate or add a bit of puffery, but the fact of the matter is… this film is worthy of any and all accolades. The literature is no exaggeration. ROSE is a slow burn (in the best sense), it does have dread… and the truth is elusive enough that at times I never knew who was playing who.

The directors’ first feature, HELEN (2009), was also about a young woman preoccupied with the facts around her adoption. So if they had a theme to their work, this would certainly be part of it. And if the intensity of the films continue to grow, we can only imagine what happens next. ROSE should not be overlooked, so watch out 2021.

This film also works on multiple levels, and can be enjoyed both on its surface and underneath. Top level is a young woman whose search for her birth parents goes in a dark direction. But those who like the literary level can fine it here, too, because the metaphors are there. Obviously, the woman playing a version of herself, which emulates her birth mother she never knew. But really it reaches its peak with the archaeology angle, because once Rose/Julie enters the digging site, that is when she really begins to start digging.

Although Ann Skelly carries the film (expertly), Aidan Gillen (GAME OF THRONES) deserves praise for his nuance and incredible range. Holy smokes, his character was hard to read, which is what makes it such a great performance. Is he a bad guy who has grown up? Is he still bad but hides it better now? There are moments where we wonder, is this creepy or are we misinterpreting him? Of course, we eventually find out the truth, but his ability to walk that razor is unbelievable.

ROSE PLAYS JULIE is hard to categorize. While not an outright horror film or even a thriller, it is unsettling enough that genre fans will really get into it if given a chance.

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