Wild Rose, 2018.
Directed by Tom Harper.
Starring Jessie Buckley, Julie Walters, Sophie Okonedo, Jamie Sives, James Harkness and Janey Godley.
A young woman and ex-offender from Glasgow dreams of becoming a Nashville country star.
Wild Rose is a sweet and sincere but light-hearted film about a young single mum from Glasgow, with a jail sentence to her name, who works as a cleaning lady and dreams of a future as a successful country singer in Nashville, Tennessee.
The film is truly made by Jessie Buckley’s great turn in the central role of Rose-Lynn Harlan (a fittingly country name, no?). After some impressive work on TV dramas such as War and Peace and The Woman in White, Buckley is really making her mark as a fine and nuanced actress. In Wild Rose, she gets the chance to show off he voice again, having first gained notice on reality TV competition show I’d Do Anything, where she came second and was given the chance to understudy the role of Nancy in Cameron Mackintosh’s revival production of Oliver! in the West End. Her pipes certainly suit both the twang and clarity of country music, and there are fabulous performances with the band from her old gig at Glasgow’s Grand Ole Oprey throughout the film.
Rose is flippant about almost everything, from her responsibilities as a mum to her menial job and planning for the future. The only thing she is deadly serious about is the “three chords and the truth” of country (never ‘and western’, as we learn). She struggles to bond with her kids, who’ve been living with their grandmother for the past year, going on with their young lives, while Rose was serving her sentence.
Julie Walters plays Rose’s exasperated but sympathetic mum – and when is that not brilliant casting? Walters truly is a real credit to any film she is in. As wealthy employer-turned-friend Susannah, who takes an interest in Rose’s passion, Sophie Okenedo nails the middle-class naïveté required without being cloying. Her and Rose’s friendship is sweet, if a little one-sided to begin with, and there’s humour in the contrasts between their behaviour: Susannah is all English reservation and blinking lots in the face of awkwardness, whereas Rose is more free (and dare I say, ‘wild’?), effing and blinding in her excitement.
The screenplay for Wild Rose is pretty tight, with authentic dialogue (and dialect) and enough gravity in the right places. The moments of lightness are fun too, such as with Rose’s comments about water being available to drink from the tap for Susannah in the face of her bottled water drinking habits.
Wild Rose will not set the world alight with its originality, treading as it does the well-worn path of a girl from the wrong side of the tracks with dreams of stardom – it’s certainly unfortunate that the third remake of A Star is Born has recently been released, to great popularity. This could overshadow Wild Rose. If, however, you are a fan of country music, a fan of Julie Walters, wish to see a big career-making performance from Buckley or simply enjoy solid British films, then it is certainly worth your while catching it in a cinema when it goes on general release next spring.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★