Directed by Paddy Breathnach. Starring Sarah Greene, Moe Dunford, Ellie O’Halloran, Ruby Dunne, Darragh Mckenzie, Molly McCann.
The Plot: The Dublin-based Davis family find themselves without a home when their landlord sells the rented house. Rosie (Sarah Greene) spends most of the day on the phone in her car trying to find temporary accommodation for the night, along with something more permanent. She also has to maintain some sense of normality for her four young children. The eldest of whom, Kayleigh (Ellie O’Halloran), is all too aware of what’s going on. Her partner John Paul (Moe Dunford) is working in a restaurant, but it’s not enough to afford a proper home. This family will have to stick together through this difficult period…
The Verdict: With a story ripped straight from current headlines, Rosie is a timely social issue film in the vein of Ken Loach. It takes as its subject the Irish housing crisis, but maintains its focus by peering through the eyes of a young mother trying to hold her family together when everything else is coming apart. With female homelessness here double that of other EU states, the film could have been an angry polemic about this troubling situation. It’s a much more subtle film than that though. Rather than using a sledgehammer to get its point across, it uses the simple but highly effective approach of putting the audience straight in Rosie’s shoes. What would you do to protect your family?
Roddy Doyle returns to feature screenwriting for the first time in nearly two decades. He’s been absent far too long, as his authentic Dublin voice, genuine sympathy and respect for his characters is evident. He got the idea for the film from listening to women talking on the radio about their plight. Rosie is a composite of these voices, denying being homeless at one point, just lost. She’s a victim of an unsympathetic system that is failing families who need affordable housing. Doyle’s script tugs more at the heartstrings, as everyday tasks like brushing teeth become problematic. It’s not all doom and gloom though. In a surprising moment of levity, a food fight breaks out. There’s always hope.
It’s the strength of the writing, complemented by flawless performances and unshowy direction from Paddy Breathnach that makes Rosie quietly powerful. Returning home from his vibrant slice of Cuban culture, Viva, Breathnach breathes further life into Doyle’s script by keeping the film grounded but hopeful. Greene and Dunford, who have been working solidly for the past few years in a number of notable films, invest their characters with humility and humanity. The film mostly rests on Greene’s shoulders. She keeps a delicate balance between being determined and vulnerable, only breaking down a few brief times to illustrate the pressure and social stigma of being homeless.
Rosie is a small film with a big heart and an even bigger voice. It demands action or at the very least a considered discussion on solutions. It’s also a fine piece of filmmaking – straightforward, heartfelt and tightly focused on the human cost involved. Essential viewing.