It’s a tricky balance depicting mental illness on film as our understanding increases and the stories of those who suffer gain greater prevalence. It’s easy for a character to be reduced to their condition or to be played as little more than a series of tics. It requires an astute and restrained director and a diligent, nuanced performer, or you’re in danger of an I Am Sam situation. Thankfully, Rose has both. Niels Arden Oplev (the original Girl With the Dragon Tattoo) draws on his own experiences with his sister who suffered from schizophrenia, and Sofie Gråbøl is tremendous in a hugely challenging role. With a surprisingly light touch, Rose occasionally leans into worthy sentiment, but for the most part it’s genuinely earned.

Inger (Gråbøl) has struggled with her illness for decades, since a youthful love affair was painfully ended. Her loving sister Ellen (Lene Maria Christensen) her avuncular husband Vagn (Anders W Berthelsen) decide it would do Inger good to join them on a coach trip from Denmark to Paris, even though they know it will be challenging to all involved. On the trip the blunt, mercurial Inger earns the disapproval of the uppity, prejudiced Andreas (Danish cinema stalwart Søren Malling), but becomes fast friends with Andreas’ young son Christian (Luca Reichardt Ben Coker).

Rose works chiefly by suggesting that there’s practically nobody who slots squarely into the category of normal, nor is anyone defined by their malady. Inger may be afflicted by an acute form of her disease, but she’s also witty, charmingly vulgar, and hugely intelligent and empathetic, and the film takes her deeply seriously as a human being. It also becomes apparent that the antagonistic Andreas is also neurodivergent – his wife’s description of him as needing everything to be ‘just so’ is telling – as his frustration lies in an inability to cope with plans being disrupted. Even the dependable, unflappable Vagn has a morbid fascination with the death of Princess Diana (the film is set within a few months after her fatal crash), obsessively insisting they visit the crash site.

Oplev’s direction is unspectacular, preferring to trust his actors to be compelling enough without any visual pyrotechnics. His instincts are correct. There is so much communicated through judicious close ups on Gråbøl and Christensen as the two sisters somewhat gingerly navigate their trip. You get the sense this is by some distance the longest consecutive amount of time they’ve spent together in decades. Gråbøl in particular manages to communicate something of the troubling mechanics of her mind, so that her more difficult moments have clearly come from considered though processes, not animalistic outburst.

As tender, delicate, and often funny, as Rose is, there is still a certain treacly sense of worthiness and narrative convention that undermines things slightly. It may be closely adapted fro Oplev’s real life with his sister, but still feels slightly generic on occasion. It’s never less than compelling thanks to the beautifully modulated performances, but this is never a tip that takes the road less travelled. It’s also never quite clear what the specific time period brings to the film. It doesn’t feel steeped in a noticeably ’90s setting, nor does it seem to add any thematic depth.

What Rose is is one of the least patronising and problematic depictions of mental illness in recent memory. Inger as a character elicits empathy rather than sympathy, and she’s portrayed with consummate skill by the excellent Sofie Gråbøl.

In selected cinemas from Fri 28 Jun 2024