Rose: A Love Story review: Gothic romance meets survival thriller
James R | On 05, Apr 2021
Director: Jennifer Sheridan
Cast: Sophie Rundle, Matt Stockoe
Meet Rose (Sophie Rundle). She lives in a cabin in the middle of the woods. She doesn’t go outside much and she has an unusual diet. Meet Sam (Matt Stockoe). He also lives in a cabin in the middle of the woods. He will do anything to keep Rose safe. That’s the starting point – and, in some ways, the end point – for Rose, the wonderfully atmospheric debut from director Jennifer Sheridan.
At once a Gothic romance and a twist on horror tropes, Matt Stockoe’s script is a nifty little beast, finding ways to play into, and undo, our expectations as we’re immersed in Rose and Sam’s life. It’s a strange one, involving isolation, protective masks and a distrust of outsiders – all things that resonate a little too well at the time it’s released.
Sophie Rundle, who you may recognise from Peaky Blinders, is excellent as Rose, afraid of what she’s capable of as much she is worried about the price Sam is paying by slavishly staying by her side. Stockoe, meanwhile, is intensely convincing as a guy who will do anything to protect the person he loves. The film wouldn’t work without that relationship convincing, and much of the thriller’s tension is driven by watching their dynamic being distorted by the arrival of Amber (Olive Gray), who is injured outside and taken in by the concerned couple.
Many films might use that awkward triangle as a first act, but Jennifer Sheridan is bold enough to let it make up the whole 90-minute story, finding uneasiness and claustrophobia in the repeated discussions about what the characters think they should do next. Sheridan conjures up a hostile yet loving tone that drives up the foreboding anticipation, turning eerie practical effects when necessary – and when they are, deploying them at such a ferocious speed that you’re still reeling when the end credits roll. A strikingly understated effort, it’s a promising calling card from a first-time filmmaker who has the courage to keep things low key.
This review was originally published during the 2020 London Film Festival.