Sunday, 7 January, 2024, 3:30 pm
Rainbow Cinemas, Northumberland Mall

Rose poster ROSE is the story of two sisters, Inger and Ellen, and how their relationship is challenged on a highly anticipated coach trip to Paris. When Inger announces her struggles with mental health to the group, the sisters are faced with pity from some and discrimination from others. On arrival in Paris, it soon becomes clear that Inger has a hidden agenda concerning a figure from her past, ultimately involving the entire group in her hunt for answers. ROSE is a film about love and care for each other, in spite of our differences, as much as it is a film about not judging a book by its cover.

Cast: Sofie Gråbøl, Lene Maria Christensen, Anders W. Berthelsen
Genre: Comedy, Drama
Original Language: Danish
Director: Niels Arden Oplev
Writer: Niels Arden Oplev
Runtime: 1h 46m


Monica Reid

A good road movie is expected to do more than just cross distance; by film tradition, it also involves personal growth and revelations. Few films have fulfilled those expectations better than the recently released Danish comedy-drama Rose. The storyline was inspired by events in screenwriter and director Niels Arden Oplev’s family situation, which may partly explain the touching realism of the story and characters.

The deceptively simple plot involves Ellen (Lene Maria Christensen) and her husband Vagn (Anders Bethelsen) taking Ellen’s sister, Inger, on a coach trip through France, where Inger once lived. Inger (Sofie Grabøl) is schizophrenic and lives in a managed care facility. Ellen, always supportive of her sister, believes that a change of scene will benefit Inger despite their overprotective mother’s misgivings. The trip becomes a revelation for all parties and an experience that will change the sisters’ relationship.

There is a fair amount of comedy in the film’s first act – not quite at Inger’s expense, but taking a realistic view of travelling with a mentally ill person. RoseWhile Inger is medicated and has received extensive counselling, making her relatively stable, there are still endless minor problems and delays when she is suddenly frightened of changes in her schedule becomes fixated on incidental objects or is overwhelmed by the presence of strangers.

Inger’s behaviour and speech are neither toned down to make them innocuous or cute nor exaggerated to emphasise that they are pathological, but are shown in a completely naturalistic way. Her struggles are sympathetic, but they are also annoying, inconvenient, and occasionally alarming. The fellow passengers on the tour bus range from supportive to irate, but there is some camaraderie when Inger insists on stopping to give a dead hedgehog a decent burial. Ellen and Vagn are cautiously hopeful that the social interaction will help her.

What makes the plot fascinating is the way it gradually reveals details about Inger herself, treating her as a human mystery. During the initial coach trip, Inger is without much of an identifiable personality beyond the symptoms of her disease, but a few incidents provide glimpses of the individual behind the mental illness. As the tour group reaches Paris, being in her former home city brings old memories to the surface and causes some of her former self to emerge.

Her fellow travellers are surprised to hear Inger speak fluent French and reveal easy familiarity with Parisian culture. Being in Paris is challenging but cathartic for Inger. It unlocks old memories and eventually leads her to undertake a personal quest and confrontation, aided by a couple of newfound friends. The impromptu adventure goes in unexpected directions, leading to, among other things, an explanation of the film’s title.

RoseWhile Rose is well made and works from an insightful, tightly written script, the highlight of the film is definitely the incredible performance of established Danish film and television actress Sofie Grabøl as Inger. She makes Inger perfectly believable, her inconvenient limitations uncomfortably real, and her situation alternately funny and tragic. Inger’s tentative independence makes her occasional, believably portrayed lapses into fear and helplessness all the more heartbreaking.

Most of all, Grabøl deftly manages the slow revelation of Inger’s many layers and of her past regrets so that the audience is swept along with her, taking her side as she tries to resolve old business – all without ever setting aside the symptoms of her disorder. Her triumphs, pointless or fleeting as some of them may be, are shared by the viewer, and the initial, qualified sympathy her character earned becomes deeper and more heartfelt. It is a difficult and masterful piece of acting, and the film could not have been as successful without it.