Review: A Surprising Team of Workers Tries to Save The Rose Maker From Corporate Greed

Eve Vertel (Catherine Frôt) is an artisanal rose breeder who inherited her father’s business and is trying to keep it alive in a world of flowers dominated (like most industries) by mass production and mass marketing. Madame Vertel is an award-winning breeder and an artiste; her competitors are factory owners with giant greenhouses. One of them would like Vertel to dissolve her business and join his to continue her work as a creator of new rose breeds. 

Her dedicated longtime assistant, Vera (Olivia Côte), tries to help save the business from bankruptcy by bringing in three new workers from a prison rehab program; this is an unwelcome surprise to her employer when they arrive. The three (at first unpaid) workers are Nadege (Marie Petiot), Samir (Fatsah Bouyahmed) and Fred (Melan Omerta); they’re a diverse crew with no knowledge at all of gardening. But they bring fresh ideas along with surprisingly good work habits.

Frôt plays Eve as an attractive, feisty woman who smokes a pipe as she sits at her desk fretting over the looming bankruptcy. She gives Vertel many shadings of mood—she’s alternatively fierce, cagey and warm-hearted. She’s determined to keep her father’s business alive. “Roses were his life,” she tells one of the workers. “He left me his dream and all the shit that goes with it.”

Vertel is at first condescending to her ex-con team. But as the three workers learn the business, they become valuable partners. One of them, in fact, exhibits a special skill that could point him toward a career of his own. 

Selling roses at the cemetery. Image courtesy Music Box Films.

Director Pierre Pinaud (On Air, Crumbs) and screenwriter Fadette Drouard create a tightly knit five-member team who band together for a purpose they come to believe in. Pinaud’s pacing and Drouard’s script make the ex-cons’ development as valued workers believable and rewarding.

Vertel’s aggressive competitor, Vincent Lamarzelle (Vincent Dedienne) admires her achievements as a rose breeder and presses her to give up her own business to become a star in his much larger operation. When she visits his property, which looks like a replica of Louis XIV’s Versailles, he takes her on a tour of his greenhouses. “How many seeds do you sow each year,” he asks. Three or four hundred, she says. Oh, we do 250,000, he replies. “You would be the creator,” he says. “My talent is business. Together, we could go very far.”

One of the most charming scenes takes place at a cemetery where Eve and her team add a new sales strategy to woo visitors to buy roses instead of chrysanthemums. 

The film is a sweet dramedy that may be slightly predictable but still offers a few surprises. You may love the film but wish there was some back story for the characters, especially the three ex-cons. We learn a bit about Fred’s parents, but nothing—not where they came from, what they had worked on before, or why they were in prison—about the others. Even Vera and Eve are blank slates who mostly exist in the time of the film—the year that spans the growing season. 

The film was shot in part at a small family business in a rose-growing district. The glorious cinematography of roses and the French countryside is by Guillaume Deffontaines. 

The Rose Maker opens at the Music Box Theatre on Friday, April 15. 

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Nancy S Bishop

Nancy S. Bishop is publisher and Stages editor of Third Coast Review. She’s a member of the American Theatre Critics Association and a 2014 Fellow of the National Critics Institute at the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center. You can read her personal writing on pop culture at nancybishopsjournal.com, and follow her on Twitter @nsbishop. She also writes about film, books, art, architecture and design.