Democracy comes back to Chile during the summer of 1990. In an isolated community, Sofía (16), Lucas (16) and Clara (10), face their first loves and fears, while preparing for New Year's ... See full summary »
Set in Ireland during the Great Famine, the drama follows an Irish Ranger who has been fighting for the British Army abroad, as he abandons his post to reunite with his family. Despite ... See full summary »
After serving fifteen years for murder, Callahan returns home to find Sean, his victim's father searching for the body. Callahan soon realises that the only way to get rid of him is to help... See full summary »
A father and daughter are on their way to dance camp when they spot the girl's best friend on the side of the road. When they stop to offer the friend a ride, their good intentions soon result in terrible consequences.
Tackling the current homeless crisis in Ireland, specifically in the capital city of Dublin, Rosie is as relevant and timely a film as you're ever likely to see. Directed by Paddy Breathnach, and written by Roddy Doyle, the film is an intimate character drama rather than an angry piece of protest cinema. Not concerned with pointing fingers at who may be responsible for this situation, examining why it is getting worse rather than better, engaging with the economic complexities, or analysing the wider socio-political implications, Doyle is instead more interested in imparting to the audience that homelessness could happen to almost anyone. Rather than evoke ire, he wants to evoke empathy. Unfortunately, the lack of major stars, the almost non-existent advertising campaign, and the grim subject matter will hamper its commercial prospects, and whilst I'd love to say this is going to be the Irish Cathy Come Home (1966), enacting change on a grand scale, the chances are it will pass from cinema screens without much of an impact.
Doyle began writing Rosie two years ago after listening to an interview with a woman who explained that although her husband worked full-time, the family were living out of their car, finding themselves with literally nowhere to go after being evicted from their rented accommodation. The woman emphasised that she never imagined such a situation for herself or her family, explaining that ordinary people don't realise how easily this can happen to them. And this is precisely the theme Doyle emphasises in the film. The Davis family are a completely normal working-class family, meeting none of the commonly held (mis)conceptions about the homeless, and the film challenges at every turn the stereotypical images we have of such people. The fact that the Davis family are an "ordinary family" enables Doyle to demonstrate that no great economic cataclysm or personal defect is necessary for people to be cast into the void, it's as much to do with bad luck and bad timing, and, in this sense, the film explores the extent to which the housing crisis has begun to cross class borders.
As this may suggest, Rosie is a piece of social realist drama in the tradition of Ken Loach or Jean-Pierre Dardenne and Luc Dardenne. However, it is much less concerned with constructing a left-wing world-view than the French brothers (I'm thinking of something like L'enfant (2005) or Deux jours, une nuit (2014)), and far less melodramatic than recent Loach output (the most obvious point of comparison is the predictable and manipulative I, Daniel Blake (2016), a decidedly inferior film to Rosie). As with all social realist cinema, Rosie speaks to the privations of the working class, and voices a critique of prevailing social structures. However, the nature and target of that critique is less conspicuous than we often find in the work of Loach, Mike Leigh, or Antonia Bird, with the film placing more emphasis on private character beats than synecdochical situations or character archetypes.
One of the strengths of Doyle's script is that he has been able to transmute emotionless news headlines and dry statistics concerning the rising tide of homelessness into a deeply effective and emotional story which does, by all means, work as a call-to-action, but which is much more forcefully a call-to-care. Doyle is not interested in sermonising about the failings of the State, concerning himself much more with what the housing crisis means to real people in practical terms. In exploring this issue, his script is remarkable for its sense of restraint, avoiding condescension, cliché, predictability, and melodrama. Rather than the characters speechifying about their plight and the state of the country, they devote all their energies to simply getting through the day, dealing with each on-the-spot challenge as it arises. As a result, they never come across as a manipulated political device, existing only at the level of symbolism or allegory, merely a means to allow the screenwriter some socio-economic grandstanding (indeed, the wider-ranging homeless crisis itself is literally never mentioned in the film). However, this is not to say that the film avoids looking at how this kind of situation can exist in such a relatively wealthy country.
For example, when John Paul attends an open-viewing for a house he and Rosie are thinking of buying in the East Wall area of Dublin, he finds the house crawling with people obviously more wealthy than himself, John Paul asks the real estate agent to put his name down, only to be told the house "isn't really suitable for a family." Again, the real meaning behind this remark is left unsaid, but the critique of gentrification is unmistakable. An extremely important scene in this respect is when Rosie visits her brother-in-law and his wife. When he refers to the family being homeless, she quickly chastises him, telling him "don't use that word", and denying that the family are, in fact, homeless, which speaks volumes as to cultural stigma and social labelling.
Aside from the way in which it handles the housing situation as a national crisis, Doyle's script is surprising in other respects. For example, a nice piece of writing is that Doyle doesn't have Rosie and John Paul at each other's throats the whole film, as we might expect. Instead, they support each other 100%, working together to try to keep the children's spirits up, and only seriously arguing once (which, tellingly, they do away from the kids). One of the film's most salient themes is that theirs is a marriage of genuine love and respect, and that goes double for their family. The film may be asking for empathy from the audience, but it also depicts a great deal of empathy, as Breathnach and Doyle stress that this is a tight-knit family unit filled with love and affection. Their situation may be grim but they are in it together. Doyle has also fashioned an absolutely knockout ending, which somehow manages to be both extremely uplifting, yet utterly soul-shattering.
From an aesthetic point of view, Breathnach's direction is utilitarian, wisely avoiding any kind of directorial gymnastics which would draw attention away from the story. Which is not, however, to say that the film is visually uninteresting. One particularly well-blocked scene sees Rosie talking to a school principal, with the sequence shot in such a way that the two-shot is demarcated by a computer monitor, literally cutting Rosie off from the well-to-do world represented by the principal. The scenes in the family's car (which comprise a sizable portion of the film) are suitably cramped and claustrophobic, with a palpable sense of unrest growing ever more prominent as the film continues. In contrast, however, many of the exterior scenes are shot in such a way as to feel disconcertingly empty, with Rosie and her family often dwarfed within the frame, creating a real sense of hopelessness and swimming-against-the-tide. Additionally, almost the entire film is shot with handheld cameras, with a lot of the exteriors consisting of long single-take Steadicam shots which create a sense of urgency, as well as depriving the characters of any sense of the control with which they could be imbued by editing.
One especially well managed aspect of the film is how it deals with the task of ringing around the various hotels trying to find a room, going through the exact same conversation over and over and over again. Before we see any images, we hear a radio report talking about the homeless crisis, followed by Rosie ringing the first number on her list. Then the image fades in. This conversation becomes a refrain, and is continued throughout the film, serving almost like a chorus punctuating the rest of the days' activities.
As for the performances, Sarah Greene is outstanding as Rosie, carrying the bulk of the film, and most of the emotional weight (a good 70-80% has her front and centre). Her attempts to remain calm in front of the kids, never losing her temper or chastising them for being frustrated with their situation, and her sorrow and regret on the few occasions when she does, are utterly heart-breaking. Her brave face slips a couple of times, and when it does, there is no sense of catharsis, no feeling of pressure being released. There is just sadness, and acknowledgement of her suffering. Despite her outward optimism, the ominousness of the situation is always there, right beneath the surface. It's an extraordinarily subtle and layered performance of just a few emotional registers, but it's completely effective and rings completely true. The ever-reliable Moe Dunford is also excellent in the slightly under-written role of John Paul, imbuing the character with a warmth and fragility, especially noticeable in a heart-breaking scene in which he reveals to Rosie his shame at not being able to adequately provide for or protect his family.
Although Rosie is about a national crisis, it is also intensely personal. Doyle may not be outwardly concerned with the politics, but his sense of anger is unmistakable as he attempts to show that the ordinary and decent people of this country are being humiliated and degraded on a daily basis. In this sense, Rosie should make audiences angry. And it probably will. The problem is that it will have a very small audience. This is not Cathy Come Home being watched by 12 million people on the BBC. This is a small independent film playing on a few screens across the country, a film of which the vast majority of the cinema-going public have never heard. In the end, despite the fact that it's exceptionally well made, deeply affecting, and flawlessly acted, Rosie won't make much of a difference or have much of an impact. And that's a crying shame.
2 of 3 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?
| Report this