'Keeping Rosy': Film Review
British TV heroine Maxine Peake and "Inbetweeners" regular Blake Harrison co-star in this noir-ish debut thriller about a career woman whose perfect life takes a sudden tragic turn.
LONDON — Already something of a national treasure in her native Britain, the versatile television and stage star Maxine Peake makes her big-screen headlining debut in this claustrophobic psycho-thriller about a young businesswoman caught in a nightmarish spiral of violence, blackmail and murder. Shot in London, Keeping Rosy is the first feature of Steve Reeves, who has previously directed over 500 commercials.
Expanded from an award-winning 2012 short by the same writer-director team, this lean exercise in low-budget suspense also features Blake Harrison, co-star of the popular TV comedy The Inbetweeners and its hit movie spinoffs. The local star power of Peake and Harrison should generate interest domestically, but on its own merits, Keeping Rosy may prove a little too stagey and melodramatic for breakout success in other territories.
A morally ambivalent lead character painted in elegantly spare strokes, Charlotte (Peake) wakes up in her chilly, impeccably tasteful apartment on the upper floors of a new high-rise in an anonymous corner of East London. But a fraught day at the office soon wrecks her cool composure when she is passed over for a high-powered promotion and unceremoniously fired. Returning home unexpectedly early, Charlotte vents her anger on her Eastern European cleaner, Maya (Elisa Lasowski), lashing out in an impulsive act of violence with tragic, unintended consequences. And so her descent from lousy day to hellish ordeal begins.
Without getting into spoilers, Charlotte soon finds herself dumping a corpse in the river Thames and playing reluctant surrogate mom to a baby daughter. Hey, we’ve all had crazy nights like that, right? A fraught visit from her adulterous lover Tom (Sam Hoare) adds extra emotional shading to her career crisis but also underscores how much her life priorities have already shifted irreversibly.
Another unexpected visitor, her sister Sarah (Christine Bottomley), alerts Charlotte to the CCTV cameras in her apartment block. Fearing her misdeeds may have been recorded, she tries to spin a fake cover story to the building’s security guard, Roger (Harrison), a desperate deception that backfires messily in blackmail and bloodshed. By this point, Keeping Rosy risks jumping the shark entirely, following its strong opening act with too many clunky, contrived plot twists.
A flinty, angular, androgynous beauty who can suggest inner torment with minimal pyrotechnics, Peake is the most compelling reason to see Keeping Rosy. When Charlotte's life starts to unravel, she reverts to her northern English accent, suggesting her public persona as a high-powered London businesswoman was always a brittle pose. This is a smart use of the star's acting range and real backstory. But the secondary characters are more crudely drawn, particularly Harrison's boorish guard. And just what are the odds of a tightly wound sociopath like Charlotte meeting a full-blown psychopath like Roger in her hour of greatest need?
Featuring crisp cinematography by former Academy Award-nominee and Harry Potter veteran Roger Pratt, Keeping Rosy is technically polished and visually pleasing. Reeves keeps the tension crackling, and Peake simmers with quietly magnetic screen presence. Though this noir-ish nerve-jangler may not be her finest work to date, it stays gripping from end to end and should serve as a future calling card for director and star alike.
Production companies: Pont Neuf Productions, Big Rich Films
Starring: Maxine Peake, Blake Harrison, Christine Bottomley, Elisa Lasowski
Director: Steve Reeves
Writers: Mike Oughton, Steve Reeves
Producers: Isabelle Georgeaux, Richard Holmes
Cinematographer: Roger Pratt
Editors: Scot Crane, Paul Watts
Music: Stephen Warbeck
Sales company: Big Rich Films
Rated 15 (U.K.), 93 minutes