‘Rose Island’ review: a film for the dreamers that narrowly misses the mark

Italian film is not earth-shattering or wholly original – but it is still both funny and undeniably engaging

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    The incredible and yet surprisingly true story of the Republic of Rose Island is told in this Netflix-produced whimsical comedy from Italian writer/director Sydney Sibilia (I Can Quit Whenever I Want). In Rose Island, an idealistic inventor creates his own island off the coast of Italy and declares it a sovereign nation with its own citizens, passports and language.

    Italy, 1968. Giorgio Rosa (Elio Germano), a gifted yet misunderstood engineer has hit rock bottom. Fired from his job and shunned by Gabriella (The Undoing’s Matilda De Angelis), who is about to marry another man, Giorgio is sick of the stuffy rules of Italian society of the late 60s and frustrated by the lack of imagination around him. With the help of his best friend Maurizio (Leonardo Lidi), he hatches a seemingly impossible plan: he intends to build a platform on the Adriatic Sea and call it his new home.

    Matilda De Angelis as Gabriella and Elio Germano as Giorgio in ‘Rose Island’. Credit: Simone Florena/Netflix

    While students in France attempt to overthrow the establishment in the May 1968 demonstrations, Giorgio, Maurizio and a number of other misfits – including pregnant teenage barmaid Franca (Violetta Zironi), stateless German club promoter Neumann (Tom Wlaschiha) and drifter Pietro (Alberto Astorri) – realise that in Rose Island they have created a meeting place for young people, away from any prying eyes.

    Revellers start to flock to the Island from all corners of Europe, but not everybody seems onboard with Giorgio’s idealistic vision. Soon he finds himself in a battle of wills with the Italian government, making him public enemy number one. The battle leads him both to the UN and the Council of Europe where he demands that his case is heard fairly.

    This David-versus-Goliath tale narrowly misses the mark – it is not earth-shattering or wholly original – but it is still both funny and undeniably engaging. Sibilia and co-writer Francesca Manieri (We Are Who We Are) successfully mix whimsy and pathos to give us something truly inspiring and hugely uplifting. As Giorgio, Germano delivers a stirring and beautifully layered turn as the ultimate doomed optimist fighting against the odds.

    All in all, Rose Island is a film for the dreamers, those who believe that freedom is worth fighting for – even if the outcome is not the one that was expected – and there is enough here to hold the attention of those unfamiliar with the real-life story.

    Details

    • Director: Sydney Sibilia
    • Starring: Elio Germano, Matilda De Angelis, Leonardo Lidi
    • Released: December 9 (Netflix)
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