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.