Wild Rose, 2019.
Directed by Tom Harper.
Starring Jessie Buckley, Sophie Okonedo, Julie Walters, Jamie Sives, James Harkness, Ashley Shelton, Kacey Musgraves, Craig Parkinson, Janey Godley, Atta Yaqub, Bob Harris, Aly Bain, Phil Cunningham, and Ashley McBryde.
A musician from Glasgow dreams of becoming a Nashville star.
As strange as a Glasgow woman wanting to reach country singer superstardom in Nashville (probably the city most synonymous with the genre of music), Wild Rose is engrossing for many reasons beyond seeking fame. It’s about finding personal fulfillment while doing right by children as a mother (a mother before the age of 18 no less), having already let them down once by going to jail for a drug-related charge.
The story begins as the titular wild Rose has finished serving her sentence, immersing herself back into daily life; she gets a job as a cleaning lady, moves back in with her children and mom, takes a look at the monthly bills, and generally makes herself at home while accepting the wrongdoings of her past. Still, there remains an insatiable desire to fulfill a lifelong dream and make it big singing country tunes; it’s not just music to Rose, it’s a way of life as evident by a tattoo summarizing how it affects her way of thinking, She performs at bars and rocks out while vacuuming the living room, all of which one of cinema’s most promising actors, Jessie Buckley, sells with conviction, energy, and vigor. We may be uncertain and still questioning aspects of her character, but her passion and dedication to belting out country lyrics are enough to get us on her side.
However, this is not A Star is Born, as Wild Rose is aware that these lofty aspirations are nothing more than a pipe dream, an extreme improbability of coming to fruition considering Rose’s checkered history and duties as a mother. Easily the strongest dynamic of the film sees Julie Walters as Rosa’s mother, conflicted between supporting her young daughter’s dreams (as every mother should) while simultaneously growing tired of egging on living in a fantasy. Having worked at a bakery her whole life with no problems and regrets, it’s clear that these are two very different people with opposing worldviews, but decisions have to be made that contain the best interest for the children, which is something that Rose does not necessarily understand.
Rose is content casting them aside, especially after bonding with the owner of the home she works for (Sophie Okonedo) who is so taken aback by her desire to make it to the big time, that she begins supporting Rose in various ways. It’s a case of one person telling her everything she wants to hear, and another exhausted from not just a longshot dream but frustrated with Rose’s inability to take responsibility, putting her own ambitions and wish fulfillment before her own children. Of course, there is an argument that if Rose does succeed and becomes wealthy, the lives of these children will drastically increase for the better, but it’s still a high-risk gamble that likely won’t pan out. It’s also important to note that Wild Rose handles the characterization of Rose with the necessary complexity to make the story work, and although Tom Harper directs the film wonderfully, having a female writer in Nicole Taylor is probably the real difference maker in terms of Rose actually coming across as a flawed human being that is difficult to judge.
The only real setback is that there are a few convenient plot points that push the narrative in certain directions just for the sake of telling the story; a few events don’t happen organically. This is also easy to overlook considering that the characters remain written true to themselves regardless of what’s happening; if someone has a change of heart it’s easy to accept. Rose’s past is also handled well, as are the reactions by characters unbeknownst to her prior criminal activities upon finding out. The ending also just simply feels right, even if possibly slightly obvious.
Don’t just come for another movie about someone musically gifted looking to maximize their talents professionally, as Wild Rose is also a beautiful family drama that pits desires against responsibility. Jessie Buckley is perfect in the role (she is also a singer in addition to a rising actor), whether she is controlling a crowd or searching inside herself to figure out what she really wants. I hate country music, but I loved Wild Rose.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★
Robert Kojder is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Flickering Myth Reviews Editor. Check here for new reviews, friend me on Facebook, follow my Twitter or Letterboxd, check out my personal non-Flickering Myth affiliated Patreon, or email me at MetalGearSolid719@gmail.com