Dublin is not only the capital of Ireland, but it is also the largest city on the island nation. Around 10% of the populous calls it home; that translates to just under 2 million people living in the Greater Dublin area. As with any place, some people own their homes, while others rent, and ironically enough, in Dublin, even if you have a job, you might be homeless. That might sound like pure fantasy, but for over 1,400 people in the capital city (and the roughly 10,000 souls across all of Ireland) that is their reality.
See, the housing market, specifically for renters, is a private sector. This meant that as the economic boom starting in 2014 (after the crash in 2008), continued and saw constant growth rates, property values shot up. Therefore, it wasn’t long before the owners of homes families were renting sold them to new hands/ developers/ businesses/ whomever. This left those families in a precarious situation. One, or both parents, have jobs, and are making money, yet are outpriced by the new owners and a competitive market. Between 2017 and 2018 the homeless population of Dublin rose 20%. Adding injury to insult, there are an estimated 30,000 empty houses in, or around, Dublin (as of the end of 2018) which these displaced humans cannot afford and the owners aren’t doing anything with.
The powerful, moving new film Rosie, masterfully directed by Paddy Breathnach and superbly written by Roddy Doyle, uses this egregious situation as the backdrop to paint a human face on these homeless families. Rosie Davis (Sarah Greene) is a hard-working, good mother to four children- Kayleigh (Ellie O’Halloran), Millie (Ruby Dunne), Alfie (Darragh Mckenzie), and young Madison (Molly McCann). Her significant other John Paul (Moe Dunford) works at a restaurant and gets on well enough with his co-workers.
“Trying to find a place for just one night’s stay proves to be a full-time job…Rosie is left with limited time to find a permanent location.”
However, the owner of the place they were renting sold the house, and this picture-perfect family finds themselves without a home. Rosie does get help from the government in the form of a list of temporary lodgings to call about vacancies on the government’s dime. Trying to find a place for just one night’s stay proves to be a full-time job. So in between dropping off and picking the children up from school, Rosie is left with limited time to find a permanent location. John Paul wants to help, but due to his work obligations, he can only do so late at night or on his breaks. Is there hope to be found anywhere?
Cathal Watters, the director of photography, keeps things claustrophobic, even when they are not in the car. The camera is always close behind, or in front of, one or more of the family members. Rosie is walking with Millie and Madison to pick up Alfie, and due to the camera angle, an over-the-shoulder tracking shot, it feels like the audience is crowding these people. Everything is presented through their point of view, with, of course, Rosie being the main focus.
This puts a lot of pressure on Sarah Greene as the titular mom, but she delivers an understated, heart-wrenching performance. For one, her chemistry with her onscreen children and partner is fantastic, and they all feel like a family. Instead of going hammy and big, Greene contains herself to small outbursts, which she regularly apologizes for immediately afterward. This makes her emotions even more relatable and understandable, as it everyday stresses that are causing this stuff. The best scene in the film is Millie’s teacher explaining an incident on the playground that hurt Millie’s feelings. The teacher tells her that she knows Rosie is a good mom, and she is not blaming her at all. The way Greene reacts to all of this is perfect.
“…masterfully directed by Paddy Breathnach and superbly written by Roddy Doyle…”
Brilliant co-stars support her. Dunford as John Paul is sweet and sincere, with an early moment perfectly encapsulating what the two of them see in each other. Madison is too young for school, so she is the child the audience gets to know the best. McCann is delightful in the role, with her need for Peachy (Peaches?), her stuffed bunny, at all times believably working. As a teenager who is trying to be too cool for everything that is happening, O’Halloran works amazingly. An apology late in the film, from both Rosie and Kayleigh, is played amazingly by both actors.
Paddy Breathnach’s direction keeps things quietly intense. The more panicked Rosie becomes, as locations to stay are quickly filling up, he just observes the mental stress this is causing a good person. This low key style, combined with the cinematography, hook the viewer in, as everything in Rosie feels naturalistic and thus, believable.
Of course, all of this would be for naught if the characters and story were not well constructed. Roddy Doyle’s screenplay for Rosie is filled with little touches that not only flesh out the characters but hint at the larger picture happening all across the city. In a desperate plea for a place to stay, Rosie visits her mother. The request gets denied unless Rosie takes back the things she said about her deceased father. Rosie refuses, citing her sister’s years-long absence from their mother’s life as proof that she is right. Precisely what happened is never spelled out, but the specifics are not the point. The point is Rosie’s mom is still clinging to a fantasy about the man she married, and this harms everyone in the present. Sometimes less is more, and Doyle exploits that fact to stunning effect.
Rosie examines a real-life tragedy with great empathy and care. The cast is fantastic all the way around, lead by a stunning turn from Sarah Greene. The directing and writing allow each moment to live and breathe on its own, so nothing feels forced or awkward. It is a compelling, powerful, and engaging drama that demands to be seen.
Rosie (2019) Directed by Paddy Breathnach. Written by Roddy Doyle. Starring Sarah Greene, Moe Dunford, Ellie O’Halloran, Ruby Dunne, Darragh Mckenzie, Molly McCann.
10 out of 10 Gummi Bears