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‘ROSALIE’ Movie Review: a poignant period drama that ultimately rewards patience

The Greatest Showman, that infamous outing did a lot to whitewash PT Barnum and his horrendous treatment of people with disabilities and deformities by producing a movie with catchy pop-song numbers and a wafer-thin philosophy about body positivity that was peddled to the masses.

Any meaningful exploration of what it is like to be othered by a society and shunned for having a different body type within the 19th century left a lot to be desired in the world of Hugh Jackman’s uncontrollable vibrato.  

Stephanie Di Giusto’s Rosalie takes a quieter approach to the subject matter, especially when concentrating on a bearded woman.

Based (very loosely) on the life of Clementine Delait, and set in 1870s, Rosalie revolves around the titular character, who is betrothed to Abel, the owner of a café in a small Brittany village. However, Abel soon discovers that Rosalie has an abundance of body hair, including a beard, due to a hormone imbalance. To avoid drawing attention to her “affliction,” Rosalie has been secretly shaving. Over the course of their marriage, Rosalie decides to shed pretense and be authentic to herself. Whilst she attracts admirers, including Abel himself, she also attracts derision from the town’s mill owner, Barcelin who has a hold on the town.

The performances are great. Nadia Tereszkiewicz is a tremendous talent who traverses the difficulties of Rosalie as well as imbuing her with a hopeful and gentle nature. Rosalie is a woman who demands that the world see her authentically, especially as a woman.

Playing opposite her is Benoit Magimel who is, and will always be, a powerhouse performer. Together, they have incredible chemistry. Some of the more moving moments occur between Rosalie and Abel as he slowly starts to fall for her and see her beauty.

Rosalie’s main issue though is that it skims through the shallows without wading into any depths until the very end. The main factor is what it means to be a woman and the script only dives into the minutia – both the troubles and positive – towards the very end, where the movie becomes moving and emotional. One of the best sequences is the final one, which will be on this reviewer’s mind for a while to come.

But, the movie tends to focus more on the turning of the tides against Rosalie’s affliction which muddies the message for the village is quite open to the new bar-lady and her beard. Only when Barcelin commands it, with the help of a confusing mill fire, do the populus start to turn against her. The biggest problem with this focus is that it is so overtly familiar that I did almost expect a musical number of acceptances.

On the whole, Rosalie is a decent, if albeit, lacking period drama that fails to fully captivate the viewer despite its promising premise and talented cast. 



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