This British indie shows the potential of director Jennifer Sheridan and its claustrophobic setting makes it perfect for late-night home viewing, despite a few gaps in the narrative. Rose (Peaky Blinders’s Sophie Rundle) is an aspiring writer who lives in a remote cabin in a snowy forest. She’s in the company os her husband Sam (Bodyguard’s Matt Stokoe), who hunts their food and provides for their general well-being, they live a seemingly idyllic life far from the madding crowd.
Rose is coping with a strange illness that prevents her from ever leaving the house, Sam has the habit of locking her up when he goes outside and leeches very often seem to be on the house menu. There is something is rotten at the heart of this bizarre lovenest. All tensions come to the fore and when the couple opens their doors an uninvited guest one fateful evening.
The script, penned by Stokoe, deftly zeroes in on the borderline parasitic nature of the helper. On one hand, Rose is an ailing person who sees herself powerless towards her partner’s sense of duty and entitlement over her life. She feels that her condition is a burden. She seems to concede that this domestic arrangement is somewhat wicked. Sam is dominant and doting primarily because he loves his spouse. Eventually, however, he reveals his monstrous face.
With so much to mine from, it is unfortunate that the story resorts to predictable turns, with the attentive viewer able to see them from a mile away. Once established, neither of the protagonists fail to develop any further, and the dialogue becomes hackneyed and flat. There is some action in the middle of the story, but that too feels a little tiresome.
The filmmaker fares much better when making use of their location in order to create tension. There is pervasive and disturbing sense of dread, elegantly captured by cinematographer Martyna Knitter. The photography inside the cabin constantly raises the question: is the real danger lurking indoors or outdoors?
It certainly would have been easy to tell this tale through the constraints of classic horror, with gory images and jump scares, but that is clearly not the film Sheridan set out to make. Instead, Rose: A Love Story presents is a tale of doomed love, and how two people can united through darkness.
Rose: A Love Story has just premiered at the BFI London Film Festival: