“I can’t help thinking that somehow if you’d managed to hold on to me, I’d be living a different life right now. I’d be a different person—perhaps the person I was really meant to be—the real me.”
The psychological drama Rose Plays Julie, directed by Christine Molloy and Joe Lawler, is the story of a young woman who longs to know about her birth parents, but what she discovers is nowhere near satisfying. The dreams she had about happy reunions turn into a nightmare.
The film opens with Rose (Ann Skelly) on a bleak Irish seawall, thinking about her birth mother and what it would be like to meet—the good memories they would form. We then move to college, where Rose is studying to be a veterinarian. The first lecture we see is about the ethics of euthanizing healthy animals. From time to time, scenes involving animal euthanasia come into the story.
Rose has been searching to connect with her biological mother, but all she has is the name Ellen Wise (Orla Brady) and a London phone number. When she calls, Ellen is silent, but obviously disturbed to hear from Rose. Rose then becomes a bit of a stalker, finding a way into Ellen’s home, where the two finally meet. Here Rose discovers the secret that Ellen has kept buried for over twenty years as she has built a successful life. That secret is that Rose is the product of a rape.
Rose convinces Ellen to tell her who the rapist is. Peter (Aiden Gillen) is an archaeologist. Rose volunteers to help on his latest dig. She seeks to get close to him, but for what purpose? She no longer has any hope of having her dreamed about happy family with her birth parents.
Identity is one of the themes that keeps popping up throughout the film. It starts with Rose pondering what her life would have been like if her mother had kept her. She would be Julie. She would have the different life from the quotation above. She later plays as Julie to stalk her biological parents. Ellen is an actress, who makes her living playing different people. Peter is a respected man in his field, but we see that he has a different persona as well.
The unfortunate thing about this film is that it devolves into a story of revenge. It is important to remember that revenge is not justice. As the film moves inexorably down that road, we lose any real chance for the characters to find a solution to their pain. There seems to be no new identities that these characters are able to assume that will find chances of redemption or wholeness. In the end, they are all more broken than when the film began.
Rose Plays Julie is available on virtual cinema and on VOD.
Photos courtesy of Film Movement.