ROSE PLAYS JULIE – Review by Jennifer Merin

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Rose Plays Julia is a potently foreboding femme-centric psychological thriller that calls up serious issues of feminine self-identity and self-esteem, of rage and revenge. Co-written and directed by Irish filmmaker partners Christine Molloy and Joe Lawlor, the plot revolves around a remarkably curious, resourceful and courageous young woman, Rose, who was adopted when she was an infant and, though she loves and has been happily nurtured by the adoptive parents who raised her, is determined to meet her birth parents and to find out why they abandoned her.  The circumstances, as Rose discovers them, prove to be quite harsh. We follow her as she proactively seeks retribution. Rose is her adoptive name, Julia is her birthname. Actress Ann Skelly does a brilliant job of playing them both, as they play each other.

A star student, Rose is studying to be a veterinarian, learning to treat animals large and small. Her attitude and behavior are chillingly unemotional, even when she’s put to the task of euthanizing those creatures with no hope of recovery and dissecting others to determine their cause of death. School and laboratory scenes are intriguingly interspersed with those in which she actually seeks interaction with her birth mother, a well-known actress (Orla Brady), and subsequently with her birth father, a famous archeologist (Aiden Gillen). A third strand that’s woven into the story presents compelling fantasy scenes that reveal Rose’s subconscious thoughts and her dreams about what her life might have been like had she not been given up for adoption.

Rose Plays Julia is beautifully crafted, the performances are stunning and the relationship between the women is profoundly moving. The film’s mix of perspectives, convoluted and contrasting moods and delivery of stuttered information are quite fascinating. And quite dark. Rose Plays Julia is a slow burn of a movie, one that gives you time to settle into the characters’ inner life and to meditate on meaning.

EDITOR’S NOTE:Rose Plays Julie is AWFJ’s Movie of the Week for March 19, 2021

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Jennifer Merin

Jennifer Merin is the Film Critic for Womens eNews and contributes the CINEMA CITIZEN blog for and is managing editor for Women on Film, the online magazine of the Alliance of Women Film Journalists, of which she is President. She has served as a regular critic and film-related interviewer for The New York Press and She has written about entertainment for USA Today, The L.A. Times, US Magazine, Ms. Magazine, Endless Vacation Magazine, Daily News, New York Post, SoHo News and other publications. After receiving her MFA from Tisch School of the Arts (Grad Acting), Jennifer performed at the O'Neill Theater Center's Playwrights Conference, Long Wharf Theater, American Place Theatre and LaMamma, where she worked with renown Japanese director, Shuji Terayama. She subsequently joined Terayama's theater company in Tokyo, where she also acted in films. Her journalism career began when she was asked to write about Terayama for The Drama Review. She became a regular contributor to the Christian Science Monitor after writing an article about Marketta Kimbrell's Theater For The Forgotten, with which she was performing at the time. She was an O'Neill Theater Center National Critics' Institute Fellow, and then became the institute's Coordinator. While teaching at the Universities of Wisconsin and Rhode Island, she wrote "A Directory of Festivals of Theater, Dance and Folklore Around the World," published by the International Theater Institute. Denmark's Odin Teatret's director, Eugenio Barba, wrote his manifesto in the form of a letter to "Dear Jennifer Merin," which has been published around the world, in languages as diverse as Farsi and Romanian. Jennifer's culturally-oriented travel column began in the LA Times in 1984, then moved to The Associated Press, LA Times Syndicate, Tribune Media, Creators Syndicate and (currently) Arcamax Publishing. She's been news writer/editor for ABC Radio Networks, on-air reporter for NBC, CBS Radio and, currently, for Westwood One's America In the Morning. She is a member of the Critics Choice Association in the Film, Documentary and TV branches and a voting member of the Black Reel Awards. For her AWFJ archive, type "Jennifer Merin" in the Search Box (upper right corner of screen).