REEL Review – Rose: A Love Story (2020)

Director: Jennifer Sheridan | 1h 26mins | Horror

Rose (Sophie Rundle) and her husband Sam (Matt Stokoe) live a sheltered life in the wilderness because of Rose’s horrifying illness. When someone gets caught in one of Sam’s traps breaking her leg, the couple’s quiet life is put at risk.

Sheridan’s debut is an excellent little horror, blending ideas of domestic bliss and outside interference with the high-concept thread of bloodthirsty disease. But it’s a film all about the build, something that is written delicately by star Matt Stokoe, setting up a devotion that is hard to come by even in the strongest of romances. But more importantly, it plays Rose’s disease close to the it’s chest, waiting until the very end to deliver the final blow.

The film is quick to build a bond between the married couple, even in the extreme circumstance they find themselves head over heels for each other. They have made a life with each other through hard work and daily navigation that is full of contingencies, reminiscent of the silent but heartwarming life built in Krasinski’s A Quiet Place (2018). Sam goes out to collect food from his numerous traps, and failing that he has a room dedicated to applying leeches on himself, just so his Wife has something to feed on at all times. But the beauty is the time they find for domestic normality, making sure they sit down for dinner and even finding time to squabble over trivial things like Sam’s cigarette smoking.

The bond between the two is captured effortlessly by Sheridan and Cinematographer Martyna Knitter. Shots of Sam and Rose together are intimate and passionate, but they don’t detract from the continuous tension building throughout the entire film. After all, this is a Horror film, one that so eerily captures the desolation of a snowed in wilderness. Every time Sam goes off to complete his daily tasks, or even if the two embark on a romantic walk, it feels like anything can happen. Maybe it’s because of the over cautiousness Sam has, constantly battling with the fear of losing someone who is eternally connected too, expecting the worst to come leaping from behind the trees.

Rose: A Love Story is far more than just a surface level Horror though, it’s a mediation on how far we are willing to go for those we love.

Rose: A Love Story is far more than just a surface level Horror though, it’s a mediation on how far we are willing to go for those we love. An almost optimistic outlook on caring for something other than yourself, and it’s beautifully told without leaning into campy cliches. A scene in which both Sam and Rose are in the bathroom is particularly moving, where Rose is quite annoyed at Sam for hurting someone; but Sam gives a speech, beautifully performed by Matt Stokoe, telling her how much he will do for her and what it will take for him to stop looking after her. It’s a moment that really stands as the definition of their relationship, 100% commitment no matter what the circumstance.

The film’s tension causes so much anxiety, you’re waiting and waiting for it to blow, and it all comes to fruition when a young girl stumbles into their life unannounced. Played by Olive Gray, Amber is a back chatting teen who doesn’t exactly feel welcomed by Sam, who’s spent so long keeping people away, but it’s Rose who wants her to feel welcome. It all culminates to the last five minutes, a flash of horror that abruptly brings everything to a halt. Without spoiling anything let’s just say Amber begins to ask too many questions, but the take away is incredibly jolting. It’s a daunting feeling of losing everything we’ve just watched, and even more daunting to know that everything we build in life can be taken away in the snap of a finger, no matter how much commitment you put into it.

Sitting pretty at 86 minutes, Rose: A Love Story is an experience that can fill so much into such a short runtime. It doesn’t latch onto the cliche of overbearing love or even the cliche of jump-scare horror, excelling in both departments and blending them well. It’s a shame we didn’t get to see more of the intrusion into their domestic life, but the film’s ending is so quick and panic inducing that you’ll find it hard to forget.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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