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Review: Roddy Doyle’s ‘Rosie’ is a heartbreaking tale of an Irish family’s resilience

Sarah Greene, ‘Rosie’
Sarah Greene in the movie “Rosie.”
(Peter Rowen / Blue Fox Entertainment)

Other films have bigger budgets and more glamorous stars, some even take home more awards. But few if any can quietly move you as much as “Rosie.”

A very fine socially conscious drama in the classic Irish tradition, “Rosie” tells a sobering tale that’s “based on too many true stories,” the narrative of a mutually supportive family made homeless through no fault of its own.

Though the outlines are indeed familiar, several factors make “Rosie” rise above the crowd, including uniformly excellent acting and the faultless work of top Irish director Paddy Breathnach (“I Went Down,” the Cuba-set “Viva.”)

But the key player here is celebrated Booker Prize-winning Irish writer Roddy Doyle, whose previous screenplays became memorable films like “The Commitments,” “The Snapper” and “The Van.”

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Doyle wrote “Rosie” after hearing a radio news report about how Dublin’s acute shortage of rental properties means even people with steady jobs have difficulty finding places to live.

Unlike other writers who’ve taken on stories like this, Doyle has the gift of creating characters in extreme situations without hitting you over the head with their plight.

Made with a restraint that enhances the heartbreaking nature of its narrative, “Rosie” is also fortunate in having top-of-the-line Irish actress Sarah Greene, who is wrenchingly involving as a character teetering on the edge of complete desperation.

We meet Rosie Davis in a situation that will become familiar: She’s sitting inside the family car, her four kids there with her, her phone to her ear, calling with ever-increasing nervousness to find a place for her family for the night.

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As we gradually find out over the 36 hours we spend with them, Rosie, partner John Paul (an excellent Moe Dunford), a working dishwasher and their children had lived in the same rented house for seven years.

But two weeks earlier, their landlord suddenly decided to sell the property and Rosie is now simultaneously looking for temporary housing for her group, often on a night-to-night basis, while hoping to find the time to search for something permanent.

That means being on the phone nonstop, making a series of dead-end calls, admitting that payment will have to be with a Dublin City Council card and insisting that “everything is grand” so her kids won’t see the stress she is under.

Those four kids, ranging from a 4-year-old to teenage, are coping the best they can, which is not always well.

For instance, the oldest, 13-year old Kayleigh (Ellie O’Halloran) sits in the front seat and buries herself in homework, pretending that it’s someone else’s family having all these problems.

That first night, at the last minute, a single hotel room for the six of them (“we’re living the dream,” the parents joke) materializes.

Which means lugging in all their possessions in king-size black plastic trash bags and keeping an eye out for Peachy, the stuffed rabbit the 4 -year-old can’t go to sleep without.

The next day, the search continues, and we meet some of the other people in Rosie’s extended family, including the mother she has serious issues with and the in-laws who are getting antsy about the continued presence of the displaced family’s dog.

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In addition to the search itself, a prime source of drama for “Rosie” is how the dislocation affects the children, with each one getting a plot turn that heightens our involvement.

Because John Paul has a full-time job, the lion’s share of the stress of the situation falls on Rosie, and keeping her equilibrium is not always possible.

“We’re not homeless, we’re just lost,” she says movingly at one point, still in shock. “We lost our keys, that’s what it feels like.”

What keeps Rosie going, and what keeps us in the film, is her extraordinary resilience as a character and the understated but powerful connection we see and feel among the family members. That bond doesn’t solve all problems, not even close, but experiencing it is, as Rosie herself would say, just grand.

'Rosie'
Rated: PG-13 for thematic material

Running time: 1 hour, 26 minutes

Playing: Starts July 19, Laemmle Monica, Santa Monica


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