In the remote woodland outskirts of a quiet town, Rose and Sam live a back to basics existence, sheltered away from the prying eyes of society. Although entirely devoted to each other, they have to contend every day with the mysterious and deadly illness that plagues Rose’s life.
Director Jennifer Sheridan and writer Matt Stokoe (who also plays Sam) have a fantastic understanding of the old “less is more” approach when it comes to horror. By not going into explicit detail on Rose’s condition, it allows the audience to imagine things far worse than what could be shown on screen.
A locked door. Rose having to wear a mask and gloves while preparing food. A jar of leeches that Sam fills with fresh blood from his legs while reading a book. All of it leads to many questions as to the true nature of Rose’s illness.
What is beyond question however is the bond between Rose and Sam. Played by real-life couple Sophie Rundle and Stokoe, there is clearly a deep affection and love between the two. There is a reason why it is subtitled “A Love Story”.
By isolating them in the old horror trope of a literal cabin in the woods, the first half of the film plays out like a chamber piece, following their routine and every day lives. The tight framing and cinematography increases the sense of confinement and isolation. The audience is trapped there with them. As a result, due to the connection made with the characters, you never question any of the choices they make. No matter how dangerous or absurd they may seem in the situation. Just one man doing whatever it takes to protect the woman he loves.
It would make for a compelling double bill with It Comes At Night and just like that film (and every season of The Walking Dead), everything is okay until the natural order of things is disturbed by the arrival of an outside party. Well this is a horror film after all. Can’t play happy families forever.
Not only does this test their survival instincts but also severely impacts their relationship. The pressures of being with each other 24/7 will be relatable to any couple living together through lockdown. In a weird way, it has many thematic traits similar to another film at LFF 2020, Supernova, which also looks at the impact an illness has on a couple and the possible solutions to everyone’s pain.
Rose: A Love Story is a hell of a debut from Sheridan & Stokoe and for audiences and horror fans it will be love at first bite.
Director: Jennifer Sheridan
Stars: Sophie Rundle, Matt Stokoe, Olive Gray
Runtime: 86 minutes