by Emily Murray
Vampires. Hate them or love them, there is no denying the huge cultural impact they have had with the arts still continuing to explore the classically gothic myth centuries later.
Which is exactly what director Jennifer Sheridan does in her disquietening feature debut Rose: A Love Story, which recently received its world premiere at the BFI London Film Festival.
A soft twist on the tale, the film follows couple Sam (Matt Stokoe) and Rose (Sophie Rundle) as they live their life in seclusion in the remote woodlands, away from the prying eyes of society.
With Rose plagued by a deadly and mysterious illness, the pair have created a seemingly safe environment for her, one whose fragility is tested when a stranger enters into the picture.
As you could probably tell from the above plot description, the film fails to cover much new ground, but that isn’t to say it treads on the horror genre’s well-worn floorboards poorly.
Sheridan creates a chilling and claustrophobic atmosphere which is effectively unsettling, and with the film lacking jump scares, it is effectively relied upon to deliver that essential fear factor.
In fact it is an even more unnerving experience due to the current pandemic we are living in, with the face masks, repetitive routines, and the fact Rose can’t really leave the house being rather familiar.
Tension is slowly built up as Rose and Sam’s brittle environment starts to be tested and chipped away at, either due to external factors or simply the couple’s relationship starting to crack.
Whilst the heady slow burner works to get us on the edge of our seats though, it never reaches the thrilling climax it was clearly attempting to build to, instead ending on a whimper rather than a scream.
Although much of the movie feels overly familiar, the way a loving yet difficult relationship is examined through both the horror and vampiric lens is interesting.
Rose’s condition could be a metaphor for any kind of illness, both physical and mental, with Sam looking after her with dedication and affection, yet struggling to manage the strains her disease brings to their relationship.
However, despite the film being titled Rose: A Love Story, it is more about Sam who we both learn the most about, and see the most character development from.
That is hardly unsurprising though considering Stokoe, who does play Sam well, also penned the script.
Despite her lack of material to work with, Rundle delivers a beautiful and sensitive performance as Rose, making it even more of a shame most of the time she is either lingering in darkness or working on her novel.
Whilst the film certainly has its flaws there is still much to enjoy, most of which comes from the flourish director Sheridan shows from behind the camera.
It will certainly be interesting to see what she does next, as she marks herself out as one to watch out for in the future.