Dealing with family problems opens up the heart of a cynical writer
Rosie is a slightly clichéd theme: the cynic who finds love and becomes reconciled to his past. It’s all handled in such an understated way that the filmmaker (who co-wrote with his previous collaborator Rudolf Nadler) carries it off, but the energy level is never very high. It’s fuelled by Sibylle Brunner as the mother, Rosie, a feisty old dame who drinks and smokes too much but maintains her independence even in the face of old age’s indignities. Brunner’s performance is pitch-perfect, scene-stealing at moments yet still mostly understated. Rosie and her jaded gay novelist son Lorenz (Fabian Krüger) share a cigarette and glass of wine now and then. If fact everybody shares a cigarette and a glass of wine now and then. Rosie’s defiance gives her a twinkle in her eye sometimes. Indeed sometimes she’s outrageous. At those times she’s probably drunk. In fact she’s an alcoholic. Lorenz and his sister, the grumpy, troubled Sophie (Judith Hofmann) frown at this, but tolerate it. The story is about everybody coming together, a bit. Rosie is about facing life on life’s terms, but it’s not made to look so terribly hard.
The thread that makes this a gay movie, but less overtly so than Gisler’s previous films, is Mario (Sebastian Ledesma), a handsome, soulful young man who turns up eager to have sex with Lorenz. He’s been a huge fan of his novels since he was a kid. Lorenz, a veteran of one-night stands, coollychronicled in his books, does go to bed with Mario once — despite back trouble — but will have none of the youth’s clinginess. Besides, he’s dealing with Sophie, Rosie, and his agent. He’s supposed to be on a book tour, or something. The film’s transitions are usually shots of drives along the highway, accompanied by classical music. Frankly, if you don’t know the landscape, they don’t mean much. Presumably Lorenz has to go back and forth to Berlin, but it’s not clear.
You don’t quite know whether to root for Rosie or shake your head. Sure, tippling and smoking all day are her ways of having a good time, but there’s something a little sad about her. And about Sophie.
A lunkish girl called Chantal (Anna-Katharina Müller) turns up who does chores for Rosie. Then despite Lorenz’s having rebuffed Mario, he turns up helping Rosie too, in time to give Lorenz a very loving back rub. Lorenz is twenty years older than Mario, but Fabian Krüger is handsome and youthful. He may need the bad back to show he has some age. In the course of things, Rosie takes several gradual turns for the worse. And there’s news from the past. At a birthday dinner for Rosie, an old man appears, a friend of the family, it seems. Lorenz looks into his history with Rosie and his father (about whom he has been having dreams) and gets some revelations.
All the stuff that’s happening brings Sophie and Lorenz closer together, and in his acceptance of the importance of ordinary love relationships and his sadness about facing his mother’s decline, guess what? Lorenz turns to Mario. Sophie gets back with her estranged boyfriend. Reluctantly, but with her usual aplomb, Rosie makes a go of life at an old people’s home. Lorenz and Mario move to Berlin together. Lorenz’s new novel is about Rosie and the triangle he discovered when he explored his father’s past.
Whether or not this film is autobiographical (and he, like Lorenz, is a Swiss gay artist long resident in Berlin) it appears more family-oriented than Marcel Gisler’s previous ones. It met with a warm reception at this year’s Solothurn (Swiss) Festival, where it was nominated for Best Feature Film, Best Screenplay, Best Actress, Best Actor, and twice for Best Supporting Actor. Sibylle Brunner won the Best Actress award. This film however is not a patch on Ursula Meier’s exciting and original film, Sister, the Swiss Oscar entry last year, which won Best Fiction Film and Best Screenplay. But Swiss film successes on the international scene are rare, so we must welcome the engaging, thoughtful Rosie, despite its low pulse.
Rosie is also is included in the 2013 San Francisco International Film Festival, in connection with which it was screened for this review. It opens in the German speaking region of Switzerland in June 2013.
Director: Marcel Gisler
Writers: Marcel Gisler, Rudolf Nadler
Stars: Sibylle Brunner, Judith Hofmann, Louis Krähenbühl
Runtime: 106 min