Jessie Buckley gives a knockout performance as a gallus ex-con from Glasgow with ambitions of being a country singer in Nashville in this delightful crowd-pleaser with rugged edges
Like any great country song, Wild Rose is deceptively straightforward but packs a heck of an emotional punch. It follows 23-year-old ex-con Rose-Lynn (Jessie Buckley), a country singer from Glasgow who dreams of making it big in the States. A couple of major obstacles stand in her way. First, her parole conditions means she’s tagged and under curfew, so can’t return to her old gig as the main draw at the Grand Ole Opry, Glasgow’s rough and ready country and western club inspired by the Nashville stage of the same name.
Second, Rose-Lynn’s got two young kids to take care of, and her mother, Marion (Julie Walters), thinks it’s about time she started putting them ahead of her pie in the sky ambitions. “Have you no been watching telly lately?” Marion asks her daughter. “Cause I’ll tell you, there’s no shortage of folk who can sing.” Rose-Lynn does find a champion, however, in Susannah (Sophie Okonedo), a rich, kindly woman who hires Rose-Lynn as her housekeeper. A bit of a square, Susannah seems to get a vicarious thrill from Rose-Lynn’s gallus attitude as well as her burgeoning singing career and starts opening doors for her.
Director Tom Harper balances this familiar tale of self-discovery with expressive moments of magic. While hoovering Susannah’s manor house, Rose-Lynn puts on her headphones and starts belting out some tunes, and musicians suddenly appear in different corners of the house to accompany her. The film is peppered with enough of these country setpieces to be classed a musical, whether it’s Buckley’s rhinestone take on Outlaw State Of Mind, a beautiful a cappella version of Peace In This House, or a stirring performance of an original song that’s a tender paean to Glasgow. The film's so much fun that you only half notice its left-turn from the star-is-born setup to something altogether richer and more emotionally satisfying.
In a former life, Buckley was the runner up on a singing contest, and she’s clearly a born performer. What makes Wild Rose truly sing, though, is that she’s an even better actor. Watching her torment as she struggles to balance her ambition and her responsibilities as a mother is agonising, while her sparring with Marion (this is Walters' best performance in yonks) feels spiky and lived-in and oh-so-real. We’re not sure if Rose-Lynn will be the next Dolly Parton but for Buckley herself, the big time is surely around the corner.
Wild Rose had its UK premiere at London Film Festival, and is released 19 Apr 2019 by Entertainment One
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