Review: Wild Rose

Poster for Wild Rose, featuring Jessie Buckley.

****

Ever heard of a country singer from Glasgow? That’s the problem facing Rose-Lynn Harlan (Jessie Buckley), a talented young singer with a passion for the quintessentially American sound she lovingly describes as ‘three chords and the truth’. Or at least, that’s one of her problems, along with trying to raise two young children single-handedly, reconnect with her family after twelve months in prison, and pursue a career as a gigging singer with a 7pm curfew. And on top of that, the uneducated folks of Britain seem to think she’s a country and western singer…

Bold, brash, and rough-around-the-edges, Rose-Lynn is both deeply flawed and impossible not to root for. It is refreshing to see a female character struggle with motherhood and responsibility without being judged an irredeemable selfish bitch, and instead given the complexity usually only afforded to male parents with a put-upon wife to clean up their emotional messes before their children feel any consequences. Fun, fierce and fully human, Rose-Lynn is a compelling protagonist whether she is joyfully singing along to country hits during her day job as a maid, or quietly trying to coax her silent daughter into talking to her again. It is a stunning performance from Buckley, who continues to prove herself worthy of her nomination for this year’s BAFTA Rising Star award. Backing her up are strong supporting performances from Julie Walters and Sophie Okonedo, as Rose-Lynn’s stern-but-loving mum and supportive employer respectively.

Nicole Taylor’s script expertly balances the serious issues (prison, single parenthood, being poor) with fun and humour, all tied together in great natural dialogue and delightful local dialect (though, as one scene makes clear, subtitles may be needed for the US release…) While country may not be the most popular genre this side of the Atlantic, the music contained in the film is infectious and fun, elevated by Buckley’s undeniable singing talent.

By taking the tried-and-tested underdog/outsider story and giving it a fresh Glaswegian country twist, Wild Rose delivers an uplifting family tale that takes its audience on a thrilling ride while still having something serious to say on the balance between dreams and responsibilities. A story that tugs on the heart strings as much as the guitar strings, Wild Rose is a lot of fun with a lot of heart.

Wild Rose opens in UK cinemas on 12th April 2019.