Keeping Rosy Film Review
Keeping Rosy is the story of a woman named Charlotte (Maxine Peake), who, after getting fired from her job at a leading media company in London, murders her Eastern European maid, Mykala (Elisa Lasowski), following an argument about smoking in her apartment and her belief that Mykala had stolen a bottle of champagne. Things are only complicated when, in the process of disposing of her former maid’s body and her possessions, Charlotte discovers Mykala’s baby in the back seat of her car.
From there, the film meanders through a long middle section which sees Charlotte bonding with the baby and naming her Rosy, breaking up with her long-time partner who is also the husband of Jen (Tori Hart), one of Charlotte’s former work colleagues, inviting her younger sister and niece to visit her, meeting with her relatives and realising that CCTV evidence exists of her disposing of Mykala’s body. Then, the film ends. Not with a bang, but a quiet kiss against Charlotte’s flat’s railing.
At one hour, twenty-eight minutes and fifty-eight seconds, Keeping Rosy isn’t a particularly long film, however, its meandering middle section makes it seem much longer; I myself found that I was checking Facebook and reading the news whilst watching it, far more often than I would have liked. This is a shame because if it wasn’t for such a lacklustre narrative, some truly bad writing and terrible cinematography, Keeping Rosy (2014) had the potential to be a fine film. All the pieces are there, but the film never takes advantage of them.
I was very impressed with the film’s music and the way that it utilised diegetic and non-diegetic sounds to intensify suspense and keep the viewer’s attention on the screen, whilst managing to use it as a storytelling device. One instance of this is near the beginning. After Charlotte has murdered Mykala and disposed of her body, and just after Charlotte has realized that Mykala’s car is still in the garage downstairs, she goes downstairs to get rid of the car. The garage is quiet. Charlotte gets into the car and turns the key. The car’s stereo plays Row Row Row Your Boat. Behind her, Charlotte hears crying. It dawns on her. We realise it too. She turns around and sees a crying infant in the back seat: Mykala’s daughter – the titular Rosy!
The whole scene is only a few minutes long, yet it is unbelievably effective at creating tension – I found myself jumping out of my seat. Another time when the film shows promise is near the start, just after Charlotte has been fired from her job. The camera angle is focussed on her face, resting against the train’s window. In the background, we can hear the other train passengers arguing. The argument escalates until, suddenly, furious about having been fired, Charlotte strikes the window. In that one moment, the woman so detached from the world becomes a punctuation mark on everything happening around her. It’s perfect.
But if Keeping Rosy’s use of sound is perfect, then its cinematography is god-awful with a capital awful. Too many lingering shots, too many close-ups from positions that make me wish I could pick up the camera and move it. Extreme close-ups are used to convey intimacy and show the importance of things, but they’re unnecessary in cases such as this, where the characters are the only thing of interest on screen. In the director’s defence, the cinematography does manage to convey the overbearing sense of loneliness in London very well, and there are a few shots that I did like, but such instances are rare.
Keeping Rosy’s saving grace is its actors and actresses, who, with the exception of Blake Harrison in the form of blackmailing security guard Roger, perform their roles very well. I was particularly captured by Jen, a new mother who came into work to show off her new baby and the wife of Charlotte’s boyfriend, Tom. In a film mostly consisting of actors playing small roles, Hart managed to give her character real depth and emotional complexity, managing to introduce themes in a very short amount of time. This, combined with the relationship that she has with Charlotte and Tom, and the relationship that they have with each other, gave the film a blissful feeling of outside context: that this is only a small part of a much wider world, which this film desperately needed. It’s the simple things that can really elevate a film, especially an independent one like Keeping Rosy with its relatively limited budget.
Blake Harrison (who I must confess I did not enjoy in this film) needn’t worry about my opinion of him, though. I feel that the problem with his psychopathic, drug-taking, blackmailing security guard lies in the script and not with me. His character became villainous so quickly that I was left wondering, at times, if Mr Harrison’s script called for him to twirl his moustache menacingly.
Ultimately, what’s stopping Keeping Rosy from being subjectively ‘good’ is the chronic genre uncertainty which obviously plagued its script. Through most of the film, Keeping Rosy is a kind of modern day Hitchcock movie with an incredibly bleak London atmosphere; at times it becomes a black comedy and at others it’s a charming piece about a forty-something woman finally having a baby. Yet, throughout all these genre-shifts, it still retains its bleak, London atmosphere. It’s not all bad, though. I think the use of sound in this film should be held up as an example in Film Schools, and the understated acting style used by Peake and the rest of the cast is sublime, but such glimmers of excellence cannot save a film like this, any more than a silk shirt could function as a parachute.