Rosita ~ A Non-Spoiler Review

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Photo montage of scenes from Rosita. Central top image is the theatrical poster for the film.

Rosita (2015) is a Danish drama romance feature film available on Netflix. 1 hr 30 min. In Danish, English and Tagalog with English subtitles. Cert 12 U.K.

Premise:

“JOHANNES lives together with his father, the middle-aged widower ULRIK in a small fishing town in the northern part of Denmark. They live a quiet routine life, each minding their separate jobs in the fishing industry. Ulrik misses the love and tenderness of a woman and arranges for the young, beautiful, Filipino ROSITA to come to Denmark – just as many other men in the town have done before him. Johannes is reluctantly drawn into this as Ulrik’s translator. However, over the following weeks, Johannes and Rosita are getting more and more attracted to each other which forces Johannes to take responsibility for his dreams and his future.” IMDb

Cast:

Mikkel Boe Følsgaard as Johannes
Mercedes Cabral as Rosita
Jens Albinus as Ulrik
Julie Agnete Vang as Maja
Mads Riisom as Allan
Lisa Baastrup as Sussi
Jacob Moth-Poulsen as Jens
Anders Brink Madsen as Frank

Crew:

Writers: Bergljot Bleken & Kim Fupz Aakeson
Director: Frederikke Aspöck
Composers: Rasmus Bille Bähncke & Johannes Elling Dam
Cinematographer: Adam Wallensten
Editors: Liv Lynge, Martin Schade & Mette Zeruneith
Sound Design: Morten Groth Brandt

The Danish theatrical poster for the film Rosita (2015)

Notes:

Location: Hirtshals, Jylland, Denmark

Mikkel Boe Følsgaard is a multi-award-winning actor who can be seen in productions such as The Chestnut Man, A Royal Affair, The Rain, Land of Mine and the upcoming Borgen (2022). Mercedes Cabral is a multi-award-winning Filipino actress and musician. Jens Albinus is another multi-award-winning actor and a familiar face from Borgen season 3 and will be in the upcoming season 4. In addition, he can be seen in A Fortunate Man, Deutschland 83 and The Killing. Julie Agnete Vang played Camilla Dalsgård in When the Dust Settles and was in Borgen season 3 and The Killing. Mads Riisom will be familiar to those who have watched The Sommerdahl Murders, Below the Surface, Darkness: Those Who Kill, Follow the Money, The Rain, The Team, 1864 and Land of Mine. Lise Baastrup played Hjørdis in Rita and Hjørdis. Anders Brink Madsen will be in the new season of Borgen and was in When the Dust Settles, Deliver Us and The Guilty and Follow the Money.

The writer Kim Fupz Aakeson created Welcome to Utmark, co-wrote Cry Wolf and he also wrote In Order of Disappearance.

Morten Groth Brandt was the sound designer on Rosita and also on The Chestnut Man, Equinox, Deliver Us, Follow the Money, The Legacy, Borgen and Headhunter.

Poster for Rosita with Mikkel Boe Følsgaard (right) as Johannes and Mercedes Cabral (left) as Rosita standing on a beach with the sea in the background

Review:

Firstly, a bit of background of how I came to choose this film to watch and review. At the time of writing Valentine’s Day is only just around the corner and choosing a “romantic” drama seemed in order. So off I hopped to Netflix and found Rosita, which is labelled as a “Romantic” film. “Perfect”, I thought… well, was I right? Well, a little bit correct and a fair proportion wrong.

The cast in this are all fantastic. There is good chemistry between the male and female leads and a definite “edge” between the father and son characters. Mikkel Boe Følsgaard and Jens Albinus have a more than passing physical resemblance as well which is great casting (putting aside their enormous talent).

Mikkel Boe Følsgaard (right) as Johannes and Jens Albinus (left) as Ulrik in a scene from Rosita

One thing I really liked in this was that Johannes has to translate for his father because Rosita speaks very little Danish and Ulrik speaks no English. The accuracy of his translation varies depending on his own state of mind.

Pretty quickly in this film, we see the errant directionless son fall for his father’s prospective new wife, and it is at this point that the scenario becomes increasingly more awkward. More awkward because it also becomes clear that Rosita feels the same way. We also see that Johannes is in a relationship in which he has no real investment (except the sex) with a woman he does not really care about, who does not have the same dreams as he does and who will never leave the town in which they live.

Jens Albinus (right) as Ulrik and Mercedes Cabral (left) as Rosita in a scene from Rosita

Rosita is driven by poverty and the chance of a new life for her and her son. One of the more uncomfortable aspects of this film is the how and why behind attractive women like Rosita coming to countries such as Denmark for a better life with men far older than themselves. Her quandary (and who are we to judge at the end of the day unless we are faced with the same personal circumstances) is to either choose to love and live with a younger man who has no firm roots and who may tire of her or to stay with an older man who she does not love (but may come to do so) who can offer her a caring and stable relationship. The key aspect in this decision is, we see, her son.

There are some wonderful scenes in this and just to pick out a few… I loved the scene where Johannes starts to teach Rosita how to ride a bicycle, a role later picked up by his father. There is another short scene with a display of rough masculinity and football (old lion v. young lion). There is even a bit of break dancing at a party which is great, and an enormous contrast to another dance later. Finally, the scene in the car with the music playing and Rosita and Johannes having fun “kite flying” where they will go and what they want to do is great, and fun.

Visually the best scenes for me are those on the beach – the car being driven fast across the sand and a kiss and holding hands as the waves roll in. The widescreen for these is perfect. I loved the clean visuals and use of colour in this film, it all feels very real.

I do want to pick out the sound design in this film for praise. I often write in these reviews to do yourself a favour and watch with a decent sound system or good headphones, and yes, this is yet another of those reviews.

This is an unusual “love triangle” in some respects and yet in others, it is the age-old woman in the centre with two potential suitors. How much choice Rosita really has is central here, and we are encouraged to empathise with her. This is reasonably successful, I think.

I would have liked to see more depth to some of the more minor characters. The brother comes over as quite thinly written as is his wife. I understand that they are not central to the story though so… Likewise there are some nice scenes with the other Filipino wives but I would have liked to have seen more of these.

This film is an antidote to any romcom although there are parts that are funny and which made me cringe between the smiles. The scene with a meal that is “quite hot” (as in spicy) is funny as is the scene with the Filipino women discussing their husbands’ attributes.

In any traditional romance, I think we would guess what the “happily ever after” will be, and this is not that. It is different and breaks those “rules” of romance we expect. Johannes finds a new purpose and direction in his life, Lars has a chance to stop being lonely and have some happiness and Rosita makes her own choice and when we leave her we see that she too sees a happier future ahead. Having watched many Danish films I have no idea why I expected this to be a “normal” romantic film.

I am not sure that Rosita is in the category of “the perfect Valentine’s Day watch” to be honest, at least not if you are looking for love and romance of the traditional sort this February the 14th. That said, as a film that asks big, uncomfortable questions and subverts what might be expected from a film that has a romance at its heart it is still well worth the watch — just not, perhaps, for Valentine’s Day.

Awards:

1 Win & 4 Nominations

Win:
Moscow International Film Festival (2015) Silver St. George, Best Director ~ Frederikke Aspöck

Nominations:
Danish Film Awards (Robert, 2016) Audience Award; Best Song “Got Me Good” by Lynval Golding, Mikkel Hess & Rasmus Bille Bähncke
Hamburg Film Festival (2015) Critics Award ~ Frederikke Aspöck
Moscow International Film Festival (2015)

Trailer:

“You Got Me Good”:

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