The Movie Waffler New Release Review - ROSE | The Movie Waffler

New Release Review - ROSE

woman plagued by mental health issues accompanies her sister on a trip to Paris, the city where her troubles originated.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Niels Arden Oplev

Starring: Sofie Gråbøl, Lene Maria Christensen, Anders W. Berthelsen, Søren Malling

Rose poster

Danish filmmaker Niels Arden Oplev broke onto the international scene with 2009's The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, but in succumbing to the lure of Hollywood he quickly disappeared into journeyman obscurity in the following years. Returning to his homeland with a film inspired by the experiences of his schizophrenic sister, Oplev has delivered his finest work with the tender and touching drama Rose.

Rose review

Depictions of disabilities have become somewhat taboo recently. There's a clamouring to have disabled roles played by actors who share those disabilities, which in many cases isn't practically aligned with the gruelling demands of a film shoot. This has resulted in the baby being thrown out with the bathwater as filmmakers avoid tackling such topics. Rose is clearly a deeply personal project for Oplev however, so he's willing to risk any scorn by casting Sofie Gråbøl in the role of his film's schizophrenic protagonist, Inger. Whether Gråbøl does justice to the illness isn't really for someone like me to evaluate, but from my admittedly limited perspective she carries it off with profound sensitivity in a movie that broaches this issue with a moving humanity.

We're told that Inger's mental troubles began when she was living in Paris as a younger woman and embarked on an affair with a married French man. When he inevitably called an end to the affair, Inger returned to Denmark and has spent much of the last three decades living in an institution. Deciding sometimes it's best to confront your trauma, Inger's sister Ellen (Lene Maria Christensen) and her husband Vagn (Anders W Berthelsen) take Inger along with them on a bus trip to Paris for a bank holiday weekend. The film is set a few weeks after the death of Princess Diana, and Vagn has a morbid compulsion to see the spot where she perished.

Rose review

Once on the bus, we get an immediate sense of how much patience will be required for Ellen and Vagn to get through this trip. Inger makes an instant enemy of a stuffy school vice principal, Andreas (Søren Malling), when her lack of a filter sees her recount inappropriately sexual recollections of her previous time in Paris within earshot of his 12-year-old son Christian (Luca Reichardt Ben Coker). When Inger holds up the bus trip by insisting on burying  a hedgehog she finds at the side of a motorway, it further riles up Andreas, but it endears her to Christian, who forms a bond with Inger over the course of the trip. Believing he's doing his new friend a favour, Christian looks up the whereabouts of Jacques (Jean-Pierre Lorit), Inger's former lover and the cause of all her troubles. Will this innocent act on Christian's part prove cathartic to Inger or only serve to destabilise her further?

This question sparks a tension that lingers throughout the film as the long weekend days pass and Inger clings to a letter of some ambiguous significance. There are ups and downs for Inger, who at some points embraces her return to the city of lights while in other moments demands to be taken home. As Ellen, Christensen gives a tangible depiction of a sibling whose saintly motivations are sometimes tempered by human frailty. There are a couple of moments where things get so real and raw that Ellen has to excuse herself to sit alone at the back of the bus, or step outside for a breath of air. We get the sense that she badly needs to break down in tears but is compelled to maintain a brave face for her sister's sake. Benefitting from more distance, Vagn has a more easygoing attitude to the situation that sees him deploy humour in his dealings with Inger. There's a brutal honesty in how Oplev depicts Vagn's ease with Inger as a source of unspoken resentment for Ellen, as though she feels cheated by her sister's willingness to cooperate with Vagn while making things so difficult for Ellen.

Rose review

It's this sort of nuance that makes Rose stand out from more conventional depictions of mental illness. Even Andreas, who is initially set up as a stock villain, gives us subtle clues to suggest he may have his own mental issues. But what makes Rose so compelling is its ability to mine humour from the most fraught situations. Inger is very funny, but the movie is always laughing with her rather than at her. The only member of the Danish party who can speak French, Inger steps up in certain situations, to the bemusement of those accompanying her. Inger's fluency in a language her fellow travellers can't understand allows her a certain freedom, an escape from the constant reminders of her mental status. The French locals she communicates with don't have the baggage of a familiarity with her condition and thus treat her as they would anyone else. Isn't this so often the purpose of a trip abroad, an escape not from yourself but from the person those around you believe you to be? In her return to Paris, Inger tears off three decades' worth of labels that have been applied to her, and remembers who she really is for a few days.

Rose is in UK cinemas and on VOD from June 28th.

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