Rose Island

Movie review by
Barbara Shulgasser-Parker, Common Sense Media
Rose Island Movie Poster Image
Man builds own country; language and drinking.
  • NR
  • 2020
  • 117 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Freedom is more than just an absence of laws and restrictions.

Positive Role Models

Giorgio is both practical enough to figure out how to build a steel island in the middle of the ocean and impractical enough to have no inkling that anyone will mind he did it.


An island off the coast of Italy is blown up. Torpedoes are launched close to the island to frighten the inhabitants into leaving. A motorcycle racer crashes when someone on his team distracts him. Archival footage shows student unrest in 1968 in Italy and France. Protesters throw Molotov cocktails and police attack protesters. A man's bloodied face is seen in black-and-white.


A government agent confesses to his boss that while on assignment he got drunk and committed adultery. A Catholic cardinal refers to a photograph of the rear end of a bikini-clad girl in the newspaper, suggesting that if sexual freedom is unchecked off the coast of Italy, the Italian government's control of Italy will be undermined.


"F--k," "s--t," "hell," "damn," "d--k," "ass," "pissed," and "testicles."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Adults drink alcohol, some to excess. One man is labeled an alcoholic.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Rose Island is a whimsical Italian feature (in Italian with English subtitles) based on a true story about a young engineer who built his own island off the coast of Italy in the 1960s in ungoverned international waters. In his effort to gain recognition as a sovereign state, he incited the ire and full force of the annoyed Italian government. Older teens may find the audacity enticing. Language includes "f--k," "s--t," "hell," "ass," "damn," d--k," "pissed," "balls," and "testicles." Adults party and dance in skimpy outfits and drink alcohol. One character is an alcoholic. Protesters throw Molotov cocktails and police attack protesters. A man's bloodied face is seen in black-and-white.

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What's the story?

The "Rose" of ROSE ISLAND is Giorgio Rosa (Elio Germano), a quirky recent graduate in engineering from Rimini, Italy. He hates rules. He hates doing what he's told. When he builds a car, then drives around without a registration, the car is impounded. That does it for him, and he goes off to build his own country. Gabriella (Matilda De Angelis), the ex-girlfriend that got away, humors him but is already engaged to a less problematic guy. Still Giorgio pines for her and in some sense builds the island to prove he's a can-do guy. Apart from his understanding of engineering principles, he doesn't seem to understand much about living life. He's often told he lives in his own world, so when he wistfully shares his vision of creating his own truly free country with Maurizio (Leonardo Lidi), a fellow young engineer and alcoholic, Maurizio becomes Giorgio's partner. When word gets out of the island, a beach disco manager named Rudy (Tom Wlaschiha), who lost his German passport for deserting during World War II, motors out to the island to introduce himself. With a little enterprise, Rudy turns the platform into a money-making summer destination complete with alcohol, dancing, and girls in bikinis. The Catholic church worries the lax morals in a place so near to Italy may spread and undermine the status quo. Plus Italian ministers don't want to allow a "government" to set up only six miles off-shore. Giorgio appeals to the United Nations for sovereign status and petitions the European Council to protect him from Italy's threats. As happened in real life, the Italian government moved swiftly and fired warning shots on the island from a battleship. Will Giorgio lose his hard-earned freedom?

Is it any good?

Giorgio builds his own country in Rose Island, making for an amusing story, but an odd one, the way helicoptering an elephant across Vietnam in Operation Dumbo Drop did. In the case of Giorgio, questions are raised: "What is freedom?" "Do laws restrict us, or protect us from others who might harm us?" Giorgio is man of action rather than thought, so none of the answers will be found here. He can figure out how to plant steel poles into the ocean but can't figure out that being alone out there in the middle of a severe rainstorm could be dangerous. And while the story of his creating a 400-square-meter platform six miles off the coast of Italy is a good one, we never really understand what motivates Giorgio. Maybe it was to get his ex-girlfriend's attention or maybe he really hated getting traffic tickets that much. But the movie provides no real examination of Giorgio's views. Was he an anarchist? Was he a communist? Or did he just want to gather strangers on a platform in the middle of the ocean to drink, dance, and have sex?

Things do get interesting when the Italian president and minister of internal affairs send a battleship, helicopters, and SWAT team to incinerate the island once and for all. At least they offer reasons, however questionable they may be. The credits run over 1960s home movies of the island and the military invasion that brought it down.  Note that as a result of the Rose Island fiasco, the U.N. changed the international waters boundaries from six miles to 12 miles from a country's shore.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about Giorgio's seeming quest for freedom from government rule. What does the movie say about the difference between freedom in a country with millions of citizens and freedom on a small platform planted in the ocean?

  • What qualities does Giorgio display in his determination to build his own island?

  • What's the purpose of law? What does the movie say about the relation between freedom and laws?

Movie details

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