• Becky Darke

Rose: A Love Story - LFF 2020

"With its cottagecore aesthetic and weirdly appropriate timing (sickness-induced isolation and mask-wearing), Rose: A Love Story does stand out."

Films about vampire romance and vampirism-as-illness are nothing new, but with its cottagecore aesthetic and weirdly appropriate timing (sickness-induced isolation and mask-wearing), Rose: A Love Story does stand out.

The central relationship between Rose (Sophie Rundle) and her husband Sam (a spectacular Matt Stokoe) is likeable and convincing. They’re close and loving but tense, as they reckon with Rose’s declining health and humanity, and the need to keep the outside world out. Sweeter moments exist in the ever-present shadow of impending danger, and scenes where the couple confront their predicament head-on are genuinely heart-wrenching.

Sam’s care for Rose and their handling of her ‘episodes’ is evocative of illnesses like epilepsy or diabetes, while her concerns about being too pale and thin call out to something more terminal.

The setting for their retreat is beautiful but I did feel the cinematography could have captured the scenery in a more striking way. However, the interiors are gorgeously lit: candles and blacklights lending a particularly gothic-but-clinical edge.

"By the denouement I was feeling pretty incredulous."

The film doesn’t have a strong sense of place; even though it’s set in Britain, the couple could be living in any remote snowy woodland, but their isolation and homelife is the focus. We spend time getting to know their routines and the practicalities of living with a vampire in the middle of nowhere. Blood-lettings, mealtimes, trapping, makeshift alarms, gardening, fuel, mail - it all needs to be figured out. This might not sound too thrilling, but it’s actually these more homely moments that work the best, especially when punctuated by Rose’s growing hunger.

Things go off the boil and begin to feel a little screenwriting-by-numbers when a runaway throws their careful existence into chaos, and at this point, the film rather grinds to a halt. The development provides an opportunity to see how the couple behave outside of their bubble, but their actions begin to lose plausibility and by the denouement I was feeling pretty incredulous - such a shame with performances this strong and when the first two acts held such promise.


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