Rose: A Love Story review – suspenseful and claustrophobic, with a murderous secret

Rose (Sophie Rundle) and Sam (Matt Stokoe) are a couple living in complete isolation in an ever-freezing part of the forest.

They live off the land, only making infrequent trips to their nearest town for fuel and their post. And yet what seemingly starts as a film about a devoted pair with slight communication issues quickly develops into a suspenseful waiting game, underpinned by a dark and murderous secret. It’s the modern love story most of us crave. Well, some of us.

British director Jennifer Sheridan creates a sense of extreme claustrophobia, with most scenes taking place within the confines of the dark and cramped cabin in the woods in which Rose and Sam live. One of the only visible lights in their home is in the mysterious blue-lit room where Sam goes to extract his own blood via his chosen method – leeches.

We very quickly learn that Sam will do anything to look after Rose. It seems he is more than happy with the bubble they have created and has all but given up on the idea of a ‘normal’ life - which is all that Rose wants for him.

This complex but comfortable existence is shattered by the potential threat of exposure when Amber (Olive Gray) stumbles abruptly and brutally into their lives.

Cracks begin to develop in Sam’s hard demeanour, as he slowly comes to the realisation that his life with Rose can never last despite all he has done to maintain it. Rose’s sweet nature inclines her to look after this young woman despite the threat she potentially poses - unfortunately it’s this nature, that Rose strongly clings to, that is ultimately her downfall. Rundle shines as the kind-natured soul whose homicidal tendencies are triggered by the faintest whiff of blood.

Sheridan's film, her debut, should be applauded. The script, written by Stokoe with input from Rundle and drawing on their own experiences, skilfully explores the nuanced issues that develop within isolated relationships (with an added element of the supernatural) and for carers looking after vulnerable partners.

The result is not just a genre-bending, romantic horror story, but a haunting social commentary that forces you to reflect on the way society treats people with debilitating but hidden conditions, from eating disorders to terminal or mental illnesses. You’re left with a sense of anxiety and the feeling of watching a couple living on borrowed time.