The Rose Maker: Green Thumbs, by Chase Beck
In The Rose Maker, Catherine Frot plays the titular character: Eve Vernet, the owner of Vernet Nursery, a small business in the French countryside begun by her father. It is a tiny farm that specializes in only growing and selling roses. Eve is a skilled hybridizer but tough times and stiff competition has led to increasingly small returns. At the beginning of the film, Eve is racing to bring her only successful hybrid to a flower judging competition. A win could bring acclaim, customers and a much-needed influx of cash. But, times are so tough for Vernet that her secretary, assistant, and only employee Véra (Olivia Côte) informs her that they did not have the money to purchase a booth, one of the main methods of attracting new clients, at the competition. Despite presenting an impressive, all-white rose bush, Eve cannot compete with Lamarzelle (Vincent Dedienne), a man who approaches rose breeding without heart or soul, paying for the best breeders and locking up promising rose breeds behind closed, hothouse doors.
Back on the farm, Eve and Véra face increasing challenges. Seizing upon opportunity, Véra manages to find three workers without costing Vernet Nursery a single centime: a work-release program courtesy of the local prison. In return for teaching these reformed criminals valuable skills, Eve can use them as free manual labor. Though unskilled and lacking in any enthusiasm, Samir (Fatsah Bouyahmed), Nadège (Marie Petiot), and Fred (Manel Foulgoc) are motivated by the freedom and potential offered by the program. At first Eve is reluctant to take on the unskilled workers but she changes her mind when she realizes their criminal skills might be exactly what she needs. Eve quickly falls upon a scheme to steal a rare rose, called “The Lion”, right from under Lamarzelle’s nose. With it, she hopes to hybridize a rose with the perfect characteristics: beauty and grace combined with the hearty resilience of a indigenous French breed. If her plan succeeds she could turn her business around. If they are caught they could all go to jail.
Despite its awkward, English title, The Rose Maker has a lot to offer. In French, the film’s title translates to “The Final Flower”. It is a small distinction, but the English title places Catherine Frot’s character front and center whereas the French title directs audiences’ attention to the flowers. I think the film works better if you center your attention on the flowers and think of the actors as satellites, spinning into and out of the plants’ orbits. The film itself is an ephemeral delight. I love the all-to-brief lessons you get on rose hybridization. It makes me want to start cutting apart my rose bushes to find my own, award-winning, breeds. I do wish the three work-release laborers were given equal time and room for character development. Instead the film focuses almost exclusively on the stories of Eve and Fred. Their character arcs are enjoyable but it comes at the expense of the other main characters. Director Pierre Pinaud’s The Rose Maker is a light comedy that provides 95 minutes of amusement. Almost before you realize, the bloom on this rose has faded into a sepia-toned memory. Appropriately, the film is just as fleeting as a summer rose, but no less beautiful. Its transience is not a flaw but rather a feature that reminds us that our memories of beauty can often outshine the actual objects upon which those memories are based. I recommend this movie to just about anyone, if only for the botanical lessons hidden within its charming story.