Starring George Katt, Jenna St. John, Francis Abbey, Kera O’Bryan, P.J. Megaw, Ian Novick
Based on a story by Jenna St. John
Director of Photography: Joe Ensley
Produced by Jenna St. John and J. Michael Whalen
Directed by J. Michael Whalen
SYNOPSIS: When the coffin of Etta Callahan, a promising dance student, is uprooted from the earth after days of rain, the small college town of Remington is haunted with questions involving the young girl’s sudden suicide. A popular art professor reveals his obsession with Etta when he works night and day to create what will be his masterpiece for the town’s annual art exhibit. This is an act of passion that aims to make Etta his and his alone: risking his marriage, friendships, and reputation.
Well, this review takes me into a little different territory from the norm, as it is a straight independent drama. An award-winning drama I might add. Conquering the Rose is well-written, directed, paced and acted. It would not look out of place on the Lifetime Channel or other stations that provide serious, thought-provoking cinema. Let’s do a little bit of a breakdown here.
First of all the story is a gripper, because it tells the tale of college art professor Jeremiah Mouthy (George Katt) that had an affair with beautiful dance student Etta Callahan (Jenna St. John). Since her suicide, he has become obsessed with the memory of her and proceeds to paint her portrait for an upcoming art exhibit. This is all well and good except for one thing; let’s put heavy, HEAVY emphasis on the word obsessed. Mouthy puts so much passion and effort into his masterpiece, that it has serious ramifications on those around him. His job suffers, his marriage starts to fall apart, and family and friends are driven to a very distant relationship with the professor. He does not notice – or care – until it is too late.
The acting is superb across the entire cast. There is not a false performance given. George Katt and Kera O’Bryon are excellent as the married couple teetering on the brink of destruction. Francis Abbey surprised me by turning in a very good serious performance of the boyfriend that Etta left behind. I have seen him in comedic roles so it was refreshing to see he has range as an actor. This observation extends to all the cast members. I have seen a few of them in comedic or action roles (P.J. Megaw comes to mind) and CONQUERING THE ROSE has allowed these performers to sink their teeth into a heavy, realistic drama. Director J. Michael Whalen shows he can handle heavy subject matter with finesse as he puts the actors through their paces.
On the production side the tone and camera work done by Joe Ensley is sharp and on target. There is an amber tone one the screen that permeates the look of the film and helps to give it a somber feel.There are many locations including an art gallery as well as a restaurant and they play out as real – no clumsiness in the art direction and the environments fit the players like a glove. I was very impressed with the art gallery in the 3rd act – where a lot of the main story plays out.
The final word on CONQUERING THE ROSE is that it is the study of a man set on a course for self-destruction, only he does not realize it. Mouthy’s tunnel vision has prevented him from seeing how his actions are affecting others. This all culminates into a tragic confrontation on what should be the greatest moment of his career. From there the dam is broken, and the viewer gets to see a downward spiral into rage and madness.
I do not know the availability of this film on DVD, but I encourage all lovers of movie drama to seek it out. Check the site below to see if it is playing at a film festival near you. A well done movie that both the cast and crew have much to be proud of.
For more information on this film – follow this LINK.