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Review: Rosie

January 31, 2020

By John Corrado

★★★ (out of 4)

“We’re not homeless,” Rosie Davis (Sarah Greene) insists to a family member partway through the Irish drama Rosie, taking issue with their use of the word. “We’re just lost,” she adds, as if trying to convince herself so she doesn’t have to face the truth.

When we first meet Rosie in the film, she is cramped in a packed car with her four kids, calling hotels and desperately trying to find a room for the night, with frustratingly little luck. Rosie and her husband John Paul (Moe Dunford) – who is the sole breadwinner, working in a restaurant – have lost the home they were renting, with their landlord kicking them out so he can sell the property.

They find a room for the night, but it’s still only Thursday, which means they have to get the kids to school the next day, and Friday will present a whole new set of challenges, as Rosie must start the process of trying to find a room all over again. Much of the film unfolds on this single Friday. There is a Lady Gaga concert happening in Dublin, so all of the hotels are already booked for the night, and housing options are increasingly scarce in a bloated market. So until they find a new place, they are essentially forced to live out of their car.

Directed by Paddy Breathnach, working from a screenplay by Roddy Doyle who is best known for writing The Commitments, Rosie is a sensitive film that explores the issue of homelessness with a sense of quiet urgency. Background details about the characters are purposefully kept to a minimum, and it’s shot with a handheld style that adds to the intimate, in the moment feel of the film. This is a stripped down work with a style that most closely recalls the social realist dramas of the Dardenne Brothers and Ken Loach, with shades of both the former’s brilliant Two Days, One Night as well as the latter’s recent works I, Daniel Blake and Sorry to Bother You.

It’s in a similar vein to those films, keeping its characters in tight focus as they struggle to get by from one moment to the next, while constantly being faced with new challenges, with each new problem that arises only exacerbating the next one. Greene carries the film with her excellent, completely naturalistic performance in the title role, making us feel Rosie’s heartbreak and frustration at every setback. Dunford matches her perfectly, with John Paul establishing himself as a steady presence in her life who must hold it together for his family. This is a quietly moving film that taps into the sad reality of the housing crisis, and the devastating toll it takes on one family.

Rosie is now playing in limited release at Imagine Cinemas Carlton Cinema in Toronto.

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