‘Rosie and Moussa’ Review: Childlike ambition confronts family conflict

Director Dorothée Van Den Berghe brings the children’s book “Rosie en Moussa” by Michael De Cock to life with her emotional Dutch film about friendship, family and love.


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A simplistic message of family trials reveals itself through Dorothée Van Den Berghe’s film “Rosie and Moussa” in which a girl’s perspective leads the story. Her strong devotion and commitment to her family strengthens her personality and makes her a powerful role model for other young people looking to make a difference. Despite this inspiration, the film was not incredibly impactful for an adult crowd beyond a surface level attraction to the developing friendship and love between the family members.

Set in the run-down town of Brussels, Belgium, 9-year-old Rosie (Savannah Vandendriessche) and her mother Lilly (Ruth Beeckmans) start their lives anew after Rosie’s father (Titus De Voogdt) leaves them. Upon entering their new apartment, Rosie quickly befriends the boy upstairs, Moussa (Imad Borji), who shows her all of his secret hideouts and talents. At the same time, Rosie takes the task into her own hands to find her father since her mother is not willing to expose the truth about his location. His disappearance seems fishy and after overhearing her uncle talk about her father, Rosie is determined to find him.

Faced with the harsh reality of her new life, Rosie often lives in an imaginary world in which she visualizes traveling abroad with Moussa as her driver. Her vibrant dreams, along with an upbeat soundtrack, take away from the intense sadness Rosie feels in her father’s absence. Yet Berghe’s film still captures the power of love through separation and the sense of loss without a complete family.

The friendship with Moussa also offers another enthusiastic yet caring personality. His support of Rosie represents the quick bond between kids but comes across as cheesy when he writes her a love letter and raps for her. Children can relate to this rapid, loyal devotion, but in reality friendships are much more complicated than presented by Rosie and Moussa. This leaves the viewers wishing they could make friends just as easily.

On the basis of a children’s book, “Rosie and Moussa” explores the real issue of broken families through the eyes of kids, making this film perfect for a younger audience. Despite a few scenes of humor and strong emotion, the story overall seemed to fall flat for an adult audience who cannot relate as well to the struggles and relationships of a little girl. Confronting the development of friendship and family through Rosie’s eyes presents a different perspective, making the film entertaining but not engaging, at least from a teenager point of view.

No matter the intended audience for this film, Berghe portrays the ideals of the Citizen Jane Film Festival with the determination and independence of Rosie as the main female character. As the sole director, Berghe uses her own autonomy to focus the story on Rosie as the central glue tying her family and friends together. By empowering women through her characters as well as her own work as a director, Berghe teaches women of all ages to stand up for what they believe in and work toward their goals. While “Rosie and Moussa” is a journey of strength and steadfastness in Rosie’s childhood, Berghe certainly demonstrates the potential of all women to make a difference, big or small.

Edited by Alexandra Sharp | asharp@themaneater.com

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