Having arrived in America with her father before the Nazi's took control of Europe Rose White (Kyra Sedgwick) decided to hide her Jewish heritage, changing her name and living her life as a typical American with an eye on achieving a successful career. The only time she embraces her heritage is on the weekly visit across town to see her father Mordecai Weiss (Maximilian Schell) and elderly relatives. But then she receives the shocking new as when her father brought her to America they left behind his mother and sister Luisa (Amanda Plummer) with the plan of sending them money to come over later but ended up along with other Jews in a concentration camp. Having long thought her sister to have died with their mother it turns out Luisa survived the camp and is coming to America. Now Luisa having moved in with Rose forces her to confront the heritage she has tried to hide as well as her fortune for not having gone through what Luisa had to. Whilst her father has to deal with his own feelings of guilt over having never tried to go back for his wife and daughter.
Without wanting to sound pretentious "Miss Rose White" is a contemplation on denial and guilt focusing on Rose's denial and her father's guilt. That is not the only things it covers but it is the central focus of the movie as we watch Rose live her life as an American only reverting back to her Jewish name and heritage when she crosses town for Friday night Shabbat. We watch how she hides the truth, avoiding answering questions about why she can't go out on a Friday night when her American boyfriend asks her out and how she knows if her father ever learnt the truth he would be disappointed in her.
It is a beautifully worked drama which has plenty of secrets which cause drama such as Mordecai's own guilt for never trying to rescue his wife and daughter. And all of this builds to an emotional, satisfying yet wonderfully open ending where director Joseph Sargent resists the need to tie everything up, leaving some elements open to interpretation.
Now the reason why this drama works is because the visual detail, not just in the sets which are wonderful or the fashions which make Sedgwick look amazing but in the contrast. In those early scenes where Rose meets Luisa at the port the contrast between them is enormous and when they go to Rose's apartment the humbleness and fragility of Luisa is of huge contrast to Rose's confidence and being use to the American way. There is a lot more and "Miss Rose White" is a drama rich in detail both visual and narrative which keeps you watching as every scene reveals something more to paint this bigger picture and often hitting you with powerful scenes.
At the centre of all this is Kyra Sedgwick who delivers to me a perfect performance as a Jewish girl brought up to live the American dream yet expected to retain her Jewish heritage leading to her conflict and lies. It is through the looks Sedgwick gives that you can sense that whilst coming to America was the making of her being left with her Orthodox father was incredibly hard work. But Sedgwick is not alone and Maximilian Schell gives a performance of a proud man, clinging on to his heritage but racked with guilt over his family.
What this all boils down to is that "Miss Rose White" is one of those rich dramas which has a lot going on which continually builds and reveals itself to tell a spellbinding, moving story. It is also a story which not only benefits from a great look but also great performances from a small but talented cast.