TIFF ’22: ‘Rosie’ Review

By: Amanda Guarragi

Rosie is the feature-film debut of Métis writer-director-actor Gail Maurice. She brings her audience to the fringes of 1980s Montreal as seen through the eyes of a sweet and suddenly orphaned Indigenous girl. Not only is it shown through the perspective of young Rosie (Keris Hope Hill), but the journey of motherhood is shown through her aunt Frédérique (Melanie Bray). She is the only relative who can take Rosie in and give her a place to stay before she goes into the system. Her aunt tries to live her own life in the first half of this film but soon realizes how big of a responsibility it is to look after a child. It’s not only up to Frédérique or Fred for short, but her friends help her raise Rosie and prove there is so much power in the community.

After losing her mother, Rosie has been trying to process everything. She internalizes her pain and represses her emotions. She lashes out at anyone trying to take her to a new place and questions her safety. Rosie and Fred share a similar spirit with one another, so they are fiery and don’t know how to express themselves. As the film goes on, Rosie ends up teaching Fred about responsibility and how not to be selfish. In doing so, Rosie becomes the central figure in Fred’s life and her friends. There’s a whole different community that Rosie is exposed to and it’s all very innocent. She sees Flo (Constant Bernard) and Mo (Alex Trahan) in various forms of drag, and they are so happy to authentically live as who they want to be.

Fred takes Rosie to unconventional places for a young girl (like a junkyard to sit in an old car) but she ends up making memories for her. Those memories become such an important part of the film because Rosie has a tangible relationship with Fred. She wants her to stay with her no matter what because her aunt is linked to her mother. So by staying with Fred she has a piece of her mother with her as well. Maurice can bring this vibrancy to her characters even when there are tough moments in between. Rosie can lighten those conversations about grief, sexism and homophobia when Fred, Flo and Mo only look at those subjects through an adult lens. Humour can also be found in those dark places and Maurice balances both quite nicely. 

Rosie explores the hardships of growing up through the eyes of the title character and her aunt Fred. Maurice shows a woman who has been trying her best to live her life but poses the question if she was living at all. There is no clear definition of how to live, but Rosie gave Fred’s life some meaning. The responsibility of taking care of someone else is a big task and there is no right way to do it only the way you feel is right. Even though this film is structured around Rosie and her perspective, audiences can resonate with the adults in this film and maybe learn how to live again. It’s a fun flashback to the 80s in Montreal with a lovely cast of characters. 

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