Jennifer Sheridan’s feature debut Rose – A Love Story follows the mysterious life of a couple living in a shadowy cabin in the woods. Husband Sam (Matt Stokoe) and wife Rose (Sophie Rundle) are almost detached from civilisation in their somewhat strained, yet very loving, marriage. He spends his days outdoors, chopping wood for their fire and hunting their dinner, while she stays inside, working on her next book. It transpires that the pair are protecting a dark secret as when they reluctantly take in an unexpected house guest, their secluded refuge comes under severe threat.
An ominous atmosphere is immediately conjured up in this strange, intriguing narrative. In the first act, as Rose taps away on her typewriter in isolation, comparisons could be quickly drawn to Stephen King’s The Shining, but a different horror genre soon comes into play. This provides Sheridan a platform to play with the style and conventions expected from stories of this ilk, crafting a steady stream of tension, and displaying a deft knack for handling moments of ruthless violence.
The far-fetched elements of the premise are smartly juxtaposed with the realistic relationship at the heart of the drama. Leading actor Stokoe is also the writer of the piece and co-star Rundle is his off-screen fiancée, so the genuine connection they share is integral to the authenticity of the performances. With a script that’s relatively light on dialogue, they are both great in their roles and their mutual attraction is evident in the subtle, almost short-hand, interactions they share. The time spent building their bond in the beginning has a satisfying pay-off in the brilliantly bold, emotional final scenes.
It’s a classic love story of passion, perseverance, and sacrifice, told through the macabre lens of a mystery horror movie, marking a bloody good debut from director Jennifer Sheridan.