Rose Plays Julie review — Irish thriller leaves generational scars

Written and Directed by Joe Lawlor and Christine Molloy | 100 min | Carbon Arc Cinema 

A deceptively simple story transforms before our eyes into a deeply suspenseful thriller. The filmmakers’ confidence is evidence in all departments, but especially cinematography, editing, score, and the performances. Rose Plays Julie is a stunner.

Rose (Ann Skelly) is an Irish girl raised as part of a loving family into which she was adopted. She’s in the middle of her studies to be a veterinarian, but she’s otherwise obsessed with contacting her birth mother. That turns out to be Ellen (Orla Brady), an actor in London, and she’s not interested in contact with the child she gave up. The reasons for that will become clear, but I won’t share them here.

I will reveal that the effort at connection between Rose and Ellen brings Peter (Aidan Gillen of Game of Thrones and The Wire) into Rose’s life. It redirects her obsession, and the takes the film into territory we’ve seen recently in movies like Promising Young Womana story of trauma and revenge. We’re certainly starting to see a lot of stories directly relating to the cultural shift precipitated by #MeToo, channeling both empathy and violence.

The moment this film goes from being about a young woman with a possibly unhealthy need to track down her birth mother to a  thriller comes in a single, terrific shot: Rose washes down cow blood into a drain. The camera lingers on the bloody hole for a long moment, the score portending doom. It’s rare a feature moves with such grace and distinction between one genre and another, but it’s right there in that moment. We could feel it coming, but that’s the equivalent of the Psycho shower scene. Nothing coming after will be the same.

Rose Plays Julie grabs hold, drags you in, and dares you to look away. You won’t.

About the author


Carsten Knox is a massive, cheese-eating nerd. In the day he works as a journalist in Halifax, Nova Scotia. At night he stares out at the rain-slick streets, watches movies, and writes about what he's seeing.