Rosie follows one mother’s journey to hold her family together in the midst of turmoil. After their landlord sells their home, Rosie (Sarah Greene), John Paul (Moe Dunford), and their young family find themselves without a place to live. With all their belongings packed into the back of their car and emotional wounds preventing them from staying with family, their family moves from motel to motel looking for a place that will accept them for the night. As John works kitchen shifts, Rosie takes the kids to school and makes calls in an effort to find safe harbour.
Told over a period of only 36 hours, Rosie provides an intimate portrait of a family in crisis. Told mostly from Rosie’s perspective, the film focuses its lens on the stresses of their relationships rather than directly tackle the larger social issues of homelessness. Wisely, screenwriter Roddy Doyle (The Commitments) chooses to bring simple moments to life as opposed to otherworldly circumstances. John Paul works but doesn’t have a home. Rosie packs their clothes every morning and keeps track of stuffed animals. The kids go to school. Because of these snippets of everyday life, there remains deep sense of humanity within these characters that brings them to life onscreen. (And, incidentally, never has a food fight seemed so filled with pure joy.) Using long-takes and close-ups, director Paddy Breathnach chooses to follow Rosie in a way that causes the viewer to believe that they’re experiencing her every feeling and flinch. We believe in Rosie because we bear witness to her heart.
To its credit, this film feels authentic, creating imperfect but loving characters that are determined to kick against a system that continues to box them in. Despite the fact that John Paul continues to keep a steady job, the family remains without a place to stay until they can find a new place to live. As a result, throughout the film, Rosie and John Paul bristle and bite back at the label of homelessness. Fearing being stereotyped by her friends and family, Rosie refuses to use terms that might affect how they are viewed by others (and how they view themselves). “We’re not homeless. We’re just… lost,” she tells her children, trying to hold onto hope that things will change soon. Theirs is a family that is built on commitment to one another and they have every intention of controlling the narrative about them, if possible. Although this attitude could seem pretentious, in fact it demonstrates the level of courage and strength that Rosie and John Paul need to exhibit. Rather than being ‘better than that’, their insistence that they aren’t homeless speaks to their relentless hope that things will change.
While it may not receive the notoriety that comes with other major film releases, Rosie is absolutely deserving of it. With a simple premise and beautifully crafted characters, Breathnach weaves a story of such intimate beauty that it bears watching and sharing with others. This is one of the most beautiful films in Toronto this year.
Rosie is currently playing at the Toronto International Film Festival.
For audio of our interview with writer Roddy Doyle and director Paddy Breathnach, click here.