Rose Plays Julia Review – Icy Performances, A Slow Burn Revenge Thriller

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Rose Plays Julia, featured at the AFI European Union Film Festival, presents a slow build thriller which unfolds as an adopted adult sets out to find her birth mother and during the process unlocks a horrifying secret.

The film begins with Rose, played by Ann Skelly, standing on a break wall at the sea, with her back to the camera, the wind, waves, crashing against this solid wall sending spray onto the dry land. We hear in voice over the expectation of what she would have expected at this moment.


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It moves from sea to a college scene where she is studying veterinary medicine. Putting animals down, the deep loss over a pet, stirs up emotions in her and she sets out to contact her birth mother. Even as the adoption papers indicated the mother wanted no contact with the child, she decides to move ahead and try to meet her.

We see her using deceptive names, making phone calls, using all the location finder technology available in contemporary society to find this woman. After our amateur sleuth locates her and we see she is a successful actress in London.


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Staking out her home Rose finds out the house is on the market, so she becomes the representative for a well-to-do-client and manages to set up an appointment. This is where the two finally meet.

Ellen, played by Orla Brady, initially has no interest in revisiting her past. Rose explains she just wants to talk, just to understand the reason, to know why she decided to give her away. As they talk, Ellen recounts the buried memory. She was raped and Rose was the result of the violence. The constant reminder was too much for her to handle.

During this time, she is still in school and stumbles upon a college dormitory date rape scene. Peering through the partially open door, we see the beginning of drug induced rape. For a moment, the audience is unsure, will she intervene, does she have the strength to confront the rapist, and then we see, as she picks up a fire extinguisher and slams the cannister into his face.


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Undeterred, and with renewed dedication, she continues to investigate the circumstances believing she has little to lose, but much to gain as she sets out to confront her biological father, Peter, the rapist, played by Aidan Gillen.

After discovering he is a successful archaeologist running a local dig, and hearing her mother's story, she volunteers to assist claiming she is an actress working on research for a role. This sets up a shocking ending.

As the climatic ending unfolds, the audience understands much about what lurks below the surface of any person. How notoriety and success can provide facades for dark unrestrained violent actors, and the immaculate worlds often built, as a fortress, to provide shelter when examined are paper thin from rot.


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The presented storyline of veterinary medicine, throughout the film, is unusual and is intricately woven into the plot. we also see the euthanasia of animals.

What is presented as a slow burn, for some, can simply translate to without high drama points that are customary in most films. As a slow-burn thriller the performances are rendered through an icy delivery, as the film takes us through longing and revenge to arrive at the dark places of power and its abuses.

Rose Plays Julia deals frankly with rape and the determination of victims to exact justice when the law and system fail them. Which as we see is frequently.

An AFI European Union Film Festival U.S. premiere, Rose Plays Julia is also an Official Selection in the 2019 London Film Festival; 2020 Dublin, Galway, Melbourne and Hamptons film festivals, Rose Plays Julia is available to viewers located anywhere in Maryland, Virginia and Washington, DC. https://afieu.eventive.org/welcome

Year - 2019.

Runtime- 100 minutes.

Language - English.

Country - Ireland, United Kingdom.

Director - Christine Molloy, Joe Lawlor.

Screenwriter - Christine Molloy, Joe Lawlor.

Producer - Christine Molloy, Joe Lawlor, David Collins.

Cast - Ann Skelly, Orla Brady, Aidan Gillen.

Image courtesy of AFI European Union Film Festival #AFIfilmeu

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