Rosie (2019) – Film Review

Is There A Family Room Available?

Back in 2012 I was living in a one-person flat with my partner and baby boy, surrounded by mould-covered walls that caused my son to have an inhalator to help his breathing. Unwilling to do the work needed to fix up the flat, our landlord sold up and gave us a month to leave. Panic-stricken and unsure what to do, I managed to get some time off work and together we managed to get help from Housing Assistance and the Council to find a new place to live. The 2 weeks between facing homelessness and moving into our new place were some of the most stressful I’ve ever had in my life and remembering the fear of almost being homeless brings back painful memories.

Harrowing, poignant and hard hitting, Rosie is a film that brings all those feelings back and intensifies them, delivering a gut-punch of despair and a bleak, harsh reality check for what it’s really like for families dealing with the broken housing system. Make no mistake about it, Rosie is deliberately difficult to watch and positions itself more as a documentary than an outright drama. This is both the film’s strongest and weakest points making it one of the most polarising films of the year.

The story revolves around struggling Mother Rosie. After her landlord sells their house and leaves them without a place to stay, Rosie, her partner John-Paul and their 4 kids move from place to place, living in the moment and relishing those small victories when they do eventually manage to find a roof over their heads for the night. The film itself plays out as an exhausting, methodically paced journey into the bleakness of this situation, as the family huddle together in their small, cramped car phoning different hotels and the council in a desperate bid to find somewhere to stay.

With no narrative arc and not much in the way of story progression, Rosie doesn’t really function as a normal story would, shying away from the usual three-act structure to deliver a continuous downward spiral of despair for this desperate family in need of a helping hand to get back on their feet. Rosie’s rigid structure, sticking to the same formulaic days that combine driving with hopeful phone calls, make up the bulk of the story, although there are a few sprinklings of character drama thrown in for the kids to help spice things up. The film itself works incredibly well as a slice of life drama but beyond that, there isn’t a whole lot else going for Rosie.

There’s a lot of handheld camera work done here too and it works really well to play into that gritty feel the film tries so hard to capture. For the most part it achieves it too, with a minimalistic score picking up during some of the more joyful moments. Be warned though, Rosie plays out much closer to films like The Road than The Pursuit Of Happyness.

Rosie is ultimately a film you’ll either love or hate. For me, I’m in the former category. This bleak, harrowing tale is a startlingly accurate depiction of the recent homeless epidemic facing Britain and Ireland today and demands your attention from start to finish. It won’t be for everyone but if you can take to Rosie’s journey, this despairing film will leave you with an empty core long after it’s finished. Ultimately that can only be a good thing – for a film to stir up that kind of emotional resonance – and for that alone Rosie deserves a lot of credit. It may not be the best film this year, but it is a very strong contender for that crown.

 


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