Lorenz Meran, (40) a successful gay author suffering acute writers’ block, has to leave Berlin and return to eastern Switzerland to provide care for his aged mother, Rosie. When he finds himself confronted with the fact that fun-loving Rosie refuses both outside assistance and a care home, he discovers that he is stuck fast in his small home town of Altstätten. But it is not only his mother’s battle against being dictated to and losing her dignity that he is struggling with. It’s also his own midlife crisis. And when long-kept secrets are suddenly revealed under the tensions of family dynamics, Lorenz almost fails to notice that love is knocking on the front door of his parent’s house…
Lorenz Meran is a successful middle-aged gay writer who is struggling with writers block when he gets called back home after his elderly mother has a stroke. Rosie is a feisty old bird and unlike Lorenz and his perpetually unhappy sibling Sophie, she seems to be the one member of this family who likes to have some fun. A little too much now given the fragile state of her health but whatever happens, she is determined not to give up chain smoking or even admit to the fact that she is an alcoholic.
The parental home is a small town in eastern Switzerland, a far cry from Lorenz’s hedonistic life in Berlin of one-night stands that he chronicles in his novels, but as his mother’s health declines he very reluctantly finds himself back in the house he never thought he would ever have to live in again. He does however have a diversion one night when he has an ‘encounter’ with Mario a grandson of his mother’s friend, but as he dresses and prepares to leave the next morning he discovers that the boy had been a big fan of his work for some time. So without discussing it at all, Lorenz panics and hastily dashes off telling a startled Mario that he would never have had sex with him if he had known he was just a groupie.
The plot unravels slowly as the family are hesitantly drawn together by their mother’s decline, and Sophie has to finally deal with her failing marriage, and both siblings make the startling discovery that it wasn’t in fact their mother who had been having ‘affairs’ when they were young as they had always suspected, but it had been their overbearing and distant father, now long dead. And his lovers were in fact men.
Jaded Lorenz’s humor never seems to lighten as he tries to deal with his impatient Literary Agent from afar, and with sullen Chantal a young neighbor of his mother’s who he suspects is supplying Rosie with alcohol. If that is not enough, at his mother’s insistence, Mario turns up to help doing oddjobs about the house.
And then just when you are about to despair about this family, Rosie reluctantly but with her usual style, decides to makes a go of living in the Seniors home that they forced her into, Sophie gets back with her estranged husband for another reconciliation, and Lorenz stops being angry and suspicious of the world just in time to realise that the long term love of his life that he has always wanted is actually there on his doorstep. And to top it all, his writer’s block disappears as he sets about writing his latest novel based on Rosie, and the ‘triangle’ he discovered when he explored his father’s past.
‘Rosie’ is the latest work of Swiss gay filmmaker Marcel Gisler (who like Lorenz was born in Altstätten and works in Berlin, however I could not establish if this is an autobiographical piece). Gisler’s movie output is infrequent at best ….. the last one was 14 years ago …..his usual fare are more explicitly gay and complicated, and this one is definitely his most refined and subtlest. Lorenz’s long struggle for happiness is finally determined by resolving the questions that arise from the troubling nightmares he still has about his father, and from being able to accept and enjoy the love of his family simply for what it is.
It all works …. albeit a little drawn out ….not just because of the script with its scattered passages of dark humor, but also because of the two excellent central performances. The veteran Swiss Actress Sibylle Brunner, in her first ever leading role, is rightly picking up awards for her devastatingly wonderful turn as Rosie, and Swiss actor Fabian Krüger is pitch perfect as the dour faced Lorenz who waits until the last reel to smile.
This movie is being hailed in some quarters as New Swiss Cinema and worthy of a world audience. I’m not sure if I really knew much about ‘Old Swiss Cinema ‘to make any comment, other than to say it definitely is well-worth seeing. (Roger Walker-Dack, queertiques.com)
Rosie is a slightly clichéd theme: the cynic who finds love and becomes reconciled to his past. It’s all handled in such an understated way that the filmmaker (who co-wrote with his previous collaborator Rudolf Nadler) carries it off, but the energy level is never very high. It’s fueled by Sibylle Brunner as the mother, Rosie, a feisty old dame who drinks and smokes too much but maintains her independence even in the face of old age’s indignities. Brunner’s performance is pitch-perfect, scene-stealing at moments yet still mostly understated. Rosie and her jaded gay novelist son Lorenz (Fabian Krüger) share a cigarette and glass of wine now and then. If fact everybody shares a cigarette and a glass of wine now and then. Rosie’s defiance gives her a twinkle in her eye sometimes. Indeed sometimes she’s outrageous. At those times she’s probably drunk. In fact she’s an alcoholic. Lorenz and his sister, the grumpy, troubled Sophie (Judith Hofmann) frown at this, but tolerate it. The story is about everybody coming together, a bit. Rosie is about facing life on life’s terms, but it’s not made to look so terribly hard.
The thread that makes this a gay movie, but less overtly so than Gisler’s previous films, is Mario (Sebastian Ledesma), a handsome, soulful young man who turns up eager to have sex with Lorenz. He’s been a huge fan of his novels since he was a kid. Lorenz, a veteran of one-night stands, cooly chronicled in his books, does go to bed with Mario once — despite back trouble — but will have none of the youth’s clinginess. Besides, he’s dealing with Sophie, Rosie, and his agent. He’s supposed to be on a book tour, or something. The film’s transitions are usually shots of drives along the highway, accompanied by classical music. Frankly, if you don’t know the landscape, they don’t mean much. Presumably Lorenz has to go back and forth to Berlin, but it’s not clear.
You don’t quite know whether to root for Rosie or shake your head. Sure, tippling and smoking all day are her ways of having a good time, but there’s something a little sad about her. And about Sophie.
A lunkish girl called Chantal (Anna-Katharina Müller) turns up who does chores for Rosie. Then despite Lorenz’s having rebuffed Mario, he turns up helping Rosie too, in time to give Lorenz a very loving back rub. Lorenz is twenty years older than Mario, but Fabian Krüger is handsome and youthful. He may need the bad back to show he has some age. In the course of things, Rosie takes several gradual turns for the worse. And there’s news from the past. At a birthday dinner for Rosie, an old man appears, a friend of the family, it seems. Lorenz looks into his history with Rosie and his father (about whom he has been having dreams) and gets some revelations.
All the stuff that’s happening brings Sophie and Lorenz closer together, and in his acceptance of the importance of ordinary love relationships and his sadness about facing his mother’s decline, guess what? Lorenz turns to Mario. Sophie gets back with her estranged boyfriend. Reluctantly, but with her usual aplomb, Rosie makes a go of life at an old people’s home. Lorenz and Mario move to Berlin together. Lorenz’s new novel is about Rosie and the triangle he discovered when he explored his father’s past.
Whether or not this film is autobiographical (and he, like Lorenz, is a Swiss gay artist long resident in Berlin) it appears more family-oriented than Marcel Gisler’s previous ones. It met with a warm reception at this year’s Solothurn (Swiss) Festival, where it was nominated for Best Feature Film, Best Screenplay, Best Actress, Best Actor, and twice for Best Supporting Actor. Sibylle Brunner won the Best Acress award. This film however is not a patch on Ursula Meier’s exciting and original film, Sister, the Swiss Oscar entry last year, which won Best Fiction Film and Best Screenplay. But Swiss film successes on the international scene are rare, so we must welcome the engaging, thoughtful Rosie, despite its low pulse. (Chris Knipp, filmleaf.net)