The Blue Rose


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

The Blue Rose
"Baron, who at just 18-years-old is a prodigy by anyone’s standards, weaves a tapestry of Lynchian threads through this gorgeously presented film but ends up with something which works on its own merits." | Photo: courtesy of Frightfest

What do blue roses mean to you? If you’re a fan of David Lynch’s Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me, you’ll know that they represent a special kind of mystery. Unless you’re in the upper echelons of the FBI then, according to Lynch, you don’t get to know exactly what, but the suspicion is that it has something to do with dreams and otherworldly forces, both of which are present in this Frightfest contribution from George Baron. it is notable, however, that there are no real blue roses here, just white ones which, as George’s character observes, have been painted that colour.

The roses grow beside the little white picket fence surrounding the garden of Harold O’Malley (Manny Liotta), whose death that character – detective Dalton – is investigating. We, the viewers, might think that there isn’t much mystery here, as we’ve already seen him murdered by his lonely and frustrated wife, Sophie (Nikko Austen Smith), in a beautifully staged opening scene which, like that picket fence, appears to belong to the 1950s. But wait – Sophie and Harold are a mixed-race couple and their marriage would have been illegal in the US until Loving vs Virginia in 1967. Something else is going on here. It’s a simple, practical hint that we are inhabiting an alternate space. They will get a lot stranger.

Copy picture

Baron, who at just 18-years-old is a prodigy by anyone’s standards, weaves a tapestry of Lynchian threads through this gorgeously presented film but ends up with something which works on its own merits. His big coup is the casting of Ray Wise as a senior detective with a familiar name, and as his father – which explains why Dalton and his colleague Lilly (Olivia Scott Welch, fresh from Jenn Wexler’s The Sacrifice Game) are working as PIs despite being barely out of school. This gives early scenes a similar quality to those in Blue Velvet, as their eagerness is matched by their naivety, and they seem insufficiently rooted in a world full of strangling vines.

If Lynch is an influence then so is America’s fascination with the imagined lives of the wealthy, from Dynasty to Keeping Up With The Kardashians, and perhaps Columbo. Danielle Bisutti’s Norma Steele is the woman in whose orbit everyone else seems to move, attending parties in her vast mansion, given to vulgar displays of wealth and a distinctly nouveau riche aesthetic. The taxidermied animals inhabiting her saccharine wonderland include a prominent owl, and equally silent is her servant, Kiro (Evee Bui), whose eyes suggest that she has secrets she would like to share. Norma is the older sister of the aforementioned Sophie, who has disappeared. Later, the trail will lead our young heroes to a nightclub called the Red Bloom Room, where a thin blond singer in a red dress sings melancholy songs. The barman has a blue triangle on his lapel.

It’s a triangle which we see over and over again in apparently significant locations, and Dalton’s fascination with it will get him into trouble. Classic noir themes play out against the film’s pastel palate. Lilly reveals a tragic past and both detectives find themselves slipping further and further into an alternate reality. The final sequence, which involves a series of confrontations amid a maze of small rooms and corridors in which everybody seems to be dressed by Lip Service or Frederick’s of Hollywood, is overlong and becomes frustrating like those dreams from which one thinks one has awoken only to have to repeat the experience. Baron hasn’t yet learned the value of aggressive editing but, one suspects, that will come, because there is no way that this is going to be his last film.

Framed by a stage performance, this is an unashamedly self-conscious piece of work. Despite its fascination with a vanished age it adheres, in its own way, to the Zeitgeist, turning Fifties ideas about gender upside down and putting its female characters very much to the fore. It is also, curiously, not the first film this year to feature a woman dreaming about giving birth to eggs. Some viewers will no doubt be outraged by its pretension, but to be fair, they should have seen that coming a mile off. Baron clearly isn’t intimidated by such responses, and it’s partly this attitude which has enabled him to create something so singular.

There is still a fair bit of room for improvement here, in both the writing and the direction, but nevertheless, The Blue Rose has a quality which most directors take decades to get close to. It takes a staggering level of confidence to transfer a vision so completely to the screen, and when somebody proves capable of that early in life, one has to wonder what they will be creating decades into the future. This is a shot across the bows. The industry had better brace itself, or else surrender to the dream.

Reviewed on: 28 Aug 2023
Share this with others on...
The Blue Rose packshot
Two rookie cops are determined to solve a seemingly clear-cut homicide, only to find themselves in an alternate reality of their worst nightmares.

Director: George Baron

Starring: George Baron, Olivia Scott Welch, Ray Wise, Logan Miller

Year: 2023

Runtime: 105 minutes

Country: US


Frightfest 2023

Search database:

Related Articles:

A strange feeling