The Rose Maker is a charming femme-centric French dramedy about Mme Eve Vernet (Catherine Frot), a middle-aged rose cultivator who has inherited her multi-generational family business, a beautiful flower nursery not far from Paris, and is now trying to save the place — her home since childhood — from bankruptcy.
Against her will, she must sell the land and her precious award-winning varieties of roses — and her family name — or completely shutter the operation and uproot all of the love and hard work it took to keep the nursery in bloom. It’s a shattering dilemma, but there’s one path to escape the thorny situation — Mme Vernet must cultivate a rose that will win the next rose grower competition, a feat that would provide her with funds and a good market for her exquisite prize-winning variety.
She can’t afford to pay staff, so her clever and devoted assistant arranges to hire three down-and-outers from a rehab center. She knows nothing about her new employees other than that they know nothing about growing roses — and seem dismissive of the rose-cultivating profession. But they need the jobs and, as she trains them and explains the craft them, they dig in to learn — which actually gives the audience a wonderful opportunity to learn with them — all about how to graft a flower to make a completely new and unique rose variety. The incidental learning experience adds to the film’s sweet bouquet.
Through her trials and tribulations, Mme Vernet remains dignified and principled, and she never loses her sense of humor and her human kindness. Fortune smiles on her in the end, but in a most unexpected and uplifting way. And, if you’re ready for Spring’s awakening, this pleasurable visit to the Vernet nursery and the gorgeous French countryside is timely, indeed.
We’ve seen other films about women cultivators who face economic disaster, but eventually prevail. One that comes to mind is the delightful Saving Grace, in which Brenda Blethyn plays a small-town English widow who, facing financial troubles after her husband’s suicide, turns to growing pot to pay her debts. Viewing these two as a double bill would be a very pleasing experience.