Year:  2019

Director:  Paddy Breathnach

Rated:  PG

Release:  January 14, 2021

Distributor: Limelight

Running time: 86 minutes

Worth: $17.00
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Sarah Greene, Moe Dunford, Ellie O’Halloran, Ruby Dunne, Darragh Mckenzie, Molly McCann

…a bleak but necessary picture.

Paddy Breathnach (Viva) directs from a screenplay by Roddy Doyle (The Commitments) a phenomenal Sarah Greene as the titular Rosie, an Irish wife and mother of four who strives to find temporary accommodation for her family. Crafted with intimate shooting and superbly naturalistic performances, Rosie takes a visceral dive into the plight of homelessness.

From the outset, much of Rosie’s day is spent on the phone, while her husband John Paul (Moe Dunford) busies himself as a kitchen hand. Armed with a few pages of emergency accommodation listings, she ploughs through with her companionable Irish lilt and finds rejection at almost every turn. Her kids are screaming and wrestling with toys in the back seat. She can barely concentrate. Their whole family life is now confined to the car, with a boot crammed full of clothes and ragged toys in black bin liners.

The filmmaking is similarly constrained, bordering on claustrophobic. The shots are close and meandering, hovering over Rosie’s face as she makes her countless phone calls. The action is confined to two agonising days of searching and failing. On the first day, Rosie manages to secure a family room in a hotel for the night. On the second day, she devastatingly runs out of luck. The eldest teenage daughter Kayleigh (Ellie O’Halloran) goes missing after school, which means Rosie and John Paul must give up precious time looking for her; time otherwise spent searching for a roof over their heads.

You may ask: is there no family member or friend who could help them? Rosie does pay a visit to her mother when searching for Kayleigh, and as grandmother she offers to help on the condition that Rosie apologise for accusations she made about her deceased father. But Rosie does not budge.

In one of the film’s strongest scenes, the family continues the search for Kayleigh by visiting the house of a close school friend, which is across the road from their old house – the last known sanctuary. The children rush out of the car and start to play in the front yard. The boy Alfie (Daragh McKenzie) goes round the back of the house. When Rosie catches up with him, he is jumping on the trampoline they had to leave behind. He refuses to get down and Rosie repeatedly fails to grab him. What makes this scene so remarkable is the apparent sadness and shame at having to drag her son away. She has no outburst of anger, only enfeebled lunges and a voice crackled with guilt.

As darkness falls, the family is forced to bunker down in a car park, and with little room for the six of them, the husband stations himself outside on a pile of nearby pallets.

Such drearily accurate social realism manages to veer from the didactic. Of course, by its very nature it offers an indictment on poor social security. But at its core, Rosie is agonising portraiture, a closely cropped still of extreme circumstances and excessive human effort. Breathbach and Doyle lay a heavy burden on audiences. In a restrained form and with finely registered emotions, it canvases a bleak but necessary picture.


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