by Kaleem Aftab
- TORONTO 2018: Irish director Paddy Breathnach takes aim at the homelessness crisis in Ireland in his new drama
With its close-up, handheld camerawork, social-realist aesthetic and the strength of will demonstrated by the central female protagonist, there is a hint of the Dardenne brothers’ Palme d’Or-winning Rosetta in the Dublin-set drama Rosie [+see also:
film profile], which played in the Contemporary World Cinema strand of the Toronto International Film Festival.
Irish director Paddy Breathnach (I Went Down, Viva [+see also:
film profile]) tackles the issue of homelessness in Ireland more than 50 years since Ken Loach’s ground-breaking TV film Cathy Come Home was watched by a quarter of the British population and led to a public outcry and the creation of two charities tackling the homelessness crisis. The hope must be that this tale set over a period of 36 hours, about a mother’s struggle to house her children, will have a similar impact. But it’s sadly hard to imagine this happening in an age of dispersed media, and with the tale being so claustrophobic that it lacks the scope and grandstanding of Cathy Come Home or Loach’s Palme d’Or-winning I, Daniel Blake [+see also:
film profile] that typically brings broad appeal.
The germ of the film was when Booker Prize-winning author Roddy Doyle was listening to the radio and heard a mother talking about the trouble she was having finding somewhere to stay with her young children after they were evicted from their home. Despite her partner being in work, they were left homeless by a nightmarish combination of high rents and low housing stock.
Doyle’s script wastes no time in demonstrating the gravity of the situation. In a car, where many of the scenes play out, Rosie (Sarah Greene) is telephoning hotels trying to find somewhere for her and her four children to stay. Meanwhile, her partner, John Paul (Moe Dunford), is working a shift as a chef on a low wage. It’s a stark situation, and over the course of the next 36 hours, we see the shame they feel by being in this situation, their fear of the future, and how their having no abode leads to major obstacles and sources of potential trouble. Rosie has to deal with a child running away, her kids yearning for their old home, a concerned schoolteacher, and the repetitiveness and monotony of ringing around for accommodation every day. It’s this repetitiveness that (perhaps necessarily) makes Rosie a challenging watch. Every part of her life is scarred. On a visit to her estranged mother’s big house, a history of abuse is even hinted at. Any moment of unbridled joy seems destined to be shattered by an unfortunate turn of events. That being said, the family dynamic is full of love and tenderness, and it is to the film's credit that it is at pains to avoid any accusations of miserabilism, despite its heavy subject matter.
Rosie is an Element Pictures (Ireland) production in association with Screen Ireland, the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland and RTÉ. The UK’s Protagonist Pictures is in charge of its international sales.
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