Ann Skelly in “Rose Plays Julie.”
By Mike Houlihan
For those looking for artistic descendants of Alfred Hitchcock and his unique style, building suspense and sometimes horror, check out Christine Molloy and Joe Lawlor’s Irish film “Rose Plays Julie.” The film is now running virtually as part of the Gene Siskel Film Center’s “From Your Sofa” series.
Ann Skelly delivers an astonishing performance as “Rose”, a college student in Dublin studying to be a veterinarian. We don’t know how long Rose has known she was adopted, but her inner monologues reveal her overwhelming yearning and frightening resolve to find her birth mother.
The filmmaking here is precise and perfectly sets up the suspense in this psychological thriller that will have you climbing the walls of your living room. It works, big time.
Sign up to The Irish Echo Newsletter
We follow Rose on her mission of discovery, while studying “Euthanasia and the healthy animal”. Her friend recounts putting down dogs, cats, and even horses as she reassures Rose, “Trust me, you’ll get used to it.”
Rose knows her birth mother is an actress in her mid-50s. She somehow finds her phone number and starts stalking Ellen, her mother, who is played engagingly by Orla Brady.
We’re not sure of Rose’s intentions. After an awkward ploy to view her mother’s home for sale, she and Ellen finally retreat to a wooded area by her home to “talk”. The filmmakers have trusted their actors to convey so much of this story without dialogue, which adds to the suspense. We’re not sure where it’s going and violence seems imminent until Ellen blurts out, “I was raped.”
“Rose Plays Julie” is very much a woman’s film, in which mother and daughter form a strange alliance. Rose dons a variety of disguises to play “Julie” and seeks out and meets the father, a creepy archeologist named Peter Doyle.
The rest I won’t give away, only to say that this is a psychological thriller that will give the hair on the back of your neck a great workout. It’s eerie, creepy, and scary as hell; taking you on an adventure in identity and revenge that seems almost supernatural, particularly in the performance of Ann Skelly as Rose/Julie. Her face can take you in a hundred different directions all at once with no dialogue necessary. It is available online here www.siskelfilmcenter.org until April 15 and possibly beyond that date. Do yourself a favor, get some popcorn, prop up the cushions and hunker down for one helluva ride from your sofa.