London Film Festival: Rose - A Love Story (2020)

Director: Jennifer Sheridan

Running Time: 85 Minutes

Starring: Matt Stokoe, Sophie Rundle, Olive Gray, Nathan McMullen, Boadicea Ricketts

What lengths would you go to for the one you love? In a remote area of the woods, Sam (Matt Stokoe) lives in seclusion with his wife, Rose (Sophie Rundle). Their lives are sheltered away, due to Rose being the victim of a terrifying illness, but their refuge is shattered by the arrival of a stranger.

Making her feature debut as a director, Jennifer Sheridan works from a script by the star, Matt Stokoe. Their combined efforts breathe life to this twist on the Vampire mythos, occurring in snow-covered isolation. What comes to the screen doesn't feel interested in these genre elements, which may explain why there's a lacking tension to them. These horror-inflected parts feel slapped on-top of a romance drama, the latter of which could've stood out more strongly on their own.

For what it's worth, the lead pair ensure you believe in the central relationship. You believe that Sam is acting strong for the both of them, putting on a brave face while Rose feels regularly defeated by the illness. Although, considering her name's in the title, it's a surprise Rose isn't as prominent a figure. If anything, the story is on Sam coping with her symptoms. While his side of things are important, it would've been appreciated to get more of a look into how Rose feels, living with this indescribable feeling. She may be weakened by the illness, but that doesn't mean she can't have her own agency.

Things are thrown into turmoil by the appearance of Amber, who stumbles into their lives while trying to escape her own troubles. Olive Gray does well in the role, but one can't help feeling the character has been tacked on, acting as a plot device to lead the proceedings to the close. It doesn't help how it ends up feeling like a rushed march towards the fallout, where more room to breathe would've been welcome. It could've happened in the place of a story-thread, involving a driver played by Nathan McMullen - Stokoe's co-star on Misfits. This element feels like filler in an already short film, and their excision could've delivered a more focused final product. As it is, the flaw's unfortunately feel glaring.