On a bench in front of her East Vancouver home, where Bessai is shooting his sequel, Fathers&Sons, Rose chats about a scene shot at her in-laws’ home in which her character, Brenda, a middle-aged housewife whose husband leaves her, has an emotional breakdown. “We had discussed in rehearsal the idea of getting in front of the mirror and looking at myself, like peeling away the layers, like an onion, like trying to get down to the reality,” she says. Complete nudity was even proposed.
Watch the trailer for Mothers & Daughters.
“I’m in front of the mirror”¦and as I’m peeling away my slip, and I’m just about to peel away another layer, the door opens and my father-in-law walks in. And I was seriously embarrassed,” she says, chuckling. “I said, ”˜Carl, there is no nudity in this film. God has spoken.’ ”
Rose won a Calgary International Film Festival outstanding performance award for portraying one of three mothers in the film, which opens in Vancouver on Friday (May 8). About a year and a half ago, Bessai approached actors Babz Chula, Tantoo Cardinal, and Rose to come up with their own stories for a film about mother-daughter relationships. “Babz and Tantoo have had these hugely adventurous, fascinating lives,” Rose says, “and as they talked, I just felt more and more boring.”
She was brought up in Kamloops and, as she puts it, didn’t exactly have great drama in her life.
“At 3:30 in the morning,” she says, “I woke up—it was like a eureka moment—I went, ”˜Yes, but that’s the story I must tell,’ you know, of the invisible woman, the woman that is well brought up and taught to be extremely polite and is feeling perhaps inadequate.”
Her character is out of sync with the modern world. “She’s reluctantly dragged into the 21st century”¦.It’s this desire to stay with what is safe, and that very desire can be your undoing as a human being. Because unless you start to reinvent and re-create and move on, the very things that you’re clinging to are going to disintegrate and die. And so what are you left with if you’re clinging to these things?”
Identity, she explains, is a core issue for Brenda. “We collapse into a marriage”¦.You lose yourself. And suddenly, who are you?”
Although Brenda’s husband abandons her for another woman, Brenda betrays herself, Rose explains. “If your husband’s gone that far in a relationship with someone else, then you’re not paying attention and she [Brenda] is not paying attention. So for me, the marriage died several years before.” The real focus, she emphasizes, “is about reclaiming the daughter”.
Rose, a mother of two boys, suggested actor Tiffany Lyndall-Knight to play her character’s daughter, who faces a strained relationship with Brenda. “I wanted the daughter to be almost everything that the mother wasn’t but still you could recognize the mother in the daughter, that indefinable connection.”
She’s had a stellar year representing middle-aged women in other projects, including Bruce Sweeney’s Excited, the horror feature Grace, and two television series (Shattered, Exes & Ohs). What’s more, she was recently inducted into the B.C. Entertainment Hall of Fame and nominated for a Leo award for Sanctuary. Mothers&Daughters won the 2008 Vancouver International Film Festival peoples’ choice award. “It’s a reflection of life as we know it,” she says. “And I think that reassures people that it’s okay to be middle-aged.”