SBU Spring 2021 Film Series: Rose Plays Julie Review

Trigger Warning: Discussion of sexual assault and rape.

Disclaimer: This article contains spoilers.


Rose Plays Julie, directed by Joe Lawlor and Christine Molloy, is a film that is very thought-provoking and emotion-provoking. The film incorporates strong acting, cinematography and symbolism to drive its plot forward.

Rose, who is played by Ann Skelly, is a veterinary student who stalks her birth mother until she pays attention to Rose. Rose is a very dark character, which is emphasized by the dullness, grayness and muted earthy tones of the color scheme of the film. After seeing her mother in person, Rose sits in her car and cries. Skelly’s crying made me cry, as I could feel the pain her character Rose was feeling since she communicated that pain so well through her acting. I was able to empathize with Rose, despite her being quite a creepy character, considering she stalked her birth mother. 

There is another scene where Rose is in the forest with her mother Ellen, and Ellen tells Rose who her father is and that Rose is the product of Rose’s father, Peter, raping Ellen. The camera remains focused on Rose’s reaction to this news for quite some time, and Skelly’s portrayal of what Rose feels is very powerful. Rose tries not to show emotion, but the pain and shock she feels slowly comes out of her, only to be suppressed again. Skelly’s acting here, as well as in the rest of the movie, was incredible, as she did a phenomenal job at communicating what Rose was feeling—or not feeling—throughout the film to the audience.

The film uses several conventions of the horror genre, such as shots through space that feel as though the audience is following the characters and even partaking in Rose’s voyeuristic stalking activities themselves. There is plenty of gory animal carnage in the film as well, which adds to the horror-like qualities of the movie. There is also a sense throughout the film that Rose is either going to do something dangerous, or that something dangerous is going to happen to Rose, especially as she takes on the identity of who she imagines Julie, the name that Ellen put on her birth certificate, would be.

Rose Plays Julie is at times a very hard film to watch for those sensitive to seeing dead animals. I am one such person who cannot see a dead animal without feeling sick, and since Rose is a veterinary student, she is surrounded by animals dying and being cut open. It was personally very hard for me to watch. However, I do not think it was supposed to be easy to watch for anyone. Early in the movie, Rose is in class studying the ethical and moral issues concerning euthanizing a healthy animal. When she studies this, she studies the ethical and moral issues with taking agency away from a living being. This parallels with the narrative of the story that involves men taking sexual agency away from women, which is a massive theme in the film, as both involve taking agency away from another living being.

Similarly, the syringe that Rose uses to euthanize an animal is symbolic, as it is used to penetrate the animal and take its agency away. This also parallels with men taking sexual agency away from women through sexual assault and rape, as both a syringe and rape involve penetration as a form of taking agency away from another living being.

At the end of the movie, Ellen tries to kill Julie’s father using the syringe. However, when he resists, she stops trying to kill him. He asks her to pause for a moment, then when he is finally ready, she inserts the syringe into his body and euthanizes him. Ellen waits for Peter’s consent to kill him, even though he did not consider her consent when he raped her. Ellen does not non-consensually violate Peter the same way he did to her since he consented to being killed in this way. It seems as though Ellen and Peter both maintained their power throughout this interaction, since Ellen voluntarily killed Peter, and he was voluntarily killed by Ellen. 

This ending is quite different from other rape revenge films that murder the perpetrator without their consent as a form of taking back power. As Alan Inkles, the Director of Staller Center and the Director of the SBU Spring 2021 Film series, says about Rose Plays Julie regarding the ending, “You’ve not seen that story exactly that way before.” 

Rose Plays Julie is a dark mother-daughter film and a rape revenge film. If you are a fan of any of these themes, then you will enjoy Rose Plays Julie. If you are not a fan of these themes, perhaps you will delight in the intriguing cinematography and incredible acting throughout the film.