From start to finish, The Rose Maker is a breath of cinematic fresh air. Foreign language films are always a joy to watch and review, partly because of their ability to present a myriad of intercultural ideas through the lens of a camera. Directed by Pierre Pinaud, this French film finds itself consumed by a singular concept: roses. Who knew they could be so interesting?
Eve (Catherine Frot) finds herself in a difficult position. As one of France’s premiere rose purveyors, her exploits in horticulture are legendary. Though amongst changing times, the industrially made rose market threatens Eve’s boutique business. Facing bankruptcy, she’s forced to hire a trio of ex-convicts in order to keep her small business afloat.
At first glance, it may be hard to believe a seemingly one-dimensional story has what it takes to carry a 90-minute runtime. Yet The Rose Maker does so with humor, warmth, and a vulnerability seldom seen in recent memory. Much of that levity spawns from the relationships between Eve and her newly hired help, Samir (Fatsah Bouyahmed), Nadège (Marie Petiot), and Fred (Melan Omerta) — all of whom find themselves inextricably linked to their new boss.
As the three ne’er-do-wells navigate their new jobs, learning along the way, they also inadvertently break down Eve’s guarded exterior to find a woman grappling with her own mortality. It’s true, Eve isn’t a young woman anymore. However, the farm left to her by her father, as well as the family name, created a fruitful career earlier in life. Now, as Eve spurns the advances of one of her younger competitors Lamarzelle (Vincent Dedienne), she must let go of the past to cultivate a healthier future for herself.
“…they also inadvertently break down Eve’s guarded exterior to find a woman grappling with her own mortality.”
The Rose Maker is at its best during its quiet moments when the characters are allowed to simply exist and grow. There’s certainly a predictability to the narrative in that aspect, where Eve helps her new friends move beyond their pasts lives, as they then pull her begrudgingly forward with them. But by the time the credits roll, who cares? In an era of expectation subversion and plot twists, it’s an absolute joy just to stop and smell the roses.
If the stellar plot wasn’t enough, the visuals are well worth the price of admission. As beautiful as the flowers that fill each frame, colors explode onto the screen in a dazzling array of vibrant pastels. Cinematographer Guillaume Deffontaines and production designer Philippe Chiffre create an earthy world, juxtaposing quirky set pieces against the natural hues of the French countryside.
For all that The Rose Maker does right, the one place the film doesn’t quite live up to expectations is its ending. For a movie that takes its time in every other aspect, the finale of this feel-good film wraps up far too quickly. With an abrupt finish, many of the plot points and character arcs are left without satisfying pay-offs. It all comes together nicely but lacks the emotional weight we’d come to expect up until that point.
When it’s all said and done, The Rose Maker is a perfect introduction to the world of foreign filmmaking and, by any standard, can contend with its English language contemporaries. If you’re looking for a hobby involving horticulture, this film might be just what you need to inspire a newfound love for French flowers.
"…as beautiful as the flowers that fill each frame..."