A woman is running, apparently in a street race. As she runs, looking patently fatigued, relatives and friends cheer her on. They shout at her that she can do it. Her reaction to their encouragement is to grimace. The race dissolves but she carries on running – next to a stream then through a desert. She collapses, exhausted. Then she wakes up.
Rosa is 44 and lives with her cat in Valencia. She works in the costume department of a film company. Everyone appreciates her work but not the person who does it. They don’t notice when she quietly leaves. Rosa has an overweaning brother, Armando, who is always taking charge. He runs a school which he’s trying to expand, though his marriage is falling apart. His two sons seem more interested in video games than skype time with dad.
Rosa’s sister Violeta is an interpreter but is just about to lose her job after a drunken incident that occurred off camera. Because she had no formal contract, her boss is not offering any redundancy money. And then there’s daughter, Lidia. Lidia has green hair and a shoulder tattoo and lives with two babies far away in Manchester. Their musician father is rarely home, so she’s left to try to maintain some sort of phone contact with her mother while keeping an eye on the uncooperative kids.
What all Rosa’s work mates and relatives have in common is that – with different levels of justification – they don’t pay her enough attention while relying on her to pick up their slack. It’s not that they’re ungrateful as such. They’re just to preoccupied with their own problems to realise how much they’re taking advantage of her basic kindness. And it’s not in Rosa’s nature to deny a good deed.
The final straw snaps when Rosa comes home to find her dad. He’s still struggling to come to terms with the death of his wife a couple of years previously, and Rosa’s been the only family member to offer him any serious attention. So he’s decided to move in with her, and to take over Lidia’s old room. All Rosa’s protestations are batted away.
To maintain sanity, Rosa takes a couple of decisions. First she will move to the coast to take over her mother’s old dressmaker’s shop, which has been lying empty. And she’s going to get married. To herself. It will just be a small affair for family and close friends but it will finally be an opportunity to make some vows – to look after herself in a way that she’s been neglecting for many years.
I’d passed on the opportunity of seeing Rosas Hochzeit a couple of times. The trailer made me think that this was going to be a sentimental romcom with the same plot that we’ve seen in a thousand other times. Boy was I wrong on that one. Not only is this a rare thing – a film based on an original idea – it is also carried off with a panache that keeps us involved from beginning to end.
This is a film about ordinary people, trying to get through their lives as best they can. I kept waiting for a cinema trick – of some hidden money or romance being produced out of nowhere to nearly resolve all Rosa’s problems. Or maybe the years of seething familial resentment would curiously lift, when everyone comes together and sings a happy song. Fortunately, there’s none of that. Yes, the family members finish the film understanding each other a little better than they started, but you still have the feeling that one small spark could set everything ablaze.
And while the film does not go for the traditional romcom ending and produce a good man to solve all Rosa’s problems, nor is it anti-relationship out of principal. Throughout the film, Rosa has a partner, Rafa, who runs a bar. Like everyone else he has too many crises at work to pay Rosa the attention she deserves, but he’s not a bad man. And Rosa marrying herself doesn’t mean turning her back on Rafa.
I do realise that explaining the plot makes the film seem more slight than it actually is. Yet there is a depth there – in character, in dialogue, and in the inventive direction that just takes you with it. The whole thing is a delightful surprize. They should think about getting someone to do a new trailer, mind.