Wild Rose

 

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The tale of a singer who wants to travel from Glasgow's Grand Ole Opry to the more famous one in Nashville.

 

Wild Rose

Jessie Buckley

 

There's no question about it: it's the performance by Jessie Buckley that makes this film memorable. She has the title role, that of Rose-Lynn Harlan who, when we first meet her in Glasgow, is just coming out of jail and returning home to her mother, Marion (Julie Walters). As this suggests, even though her offence was not a major one, Rose-Lynn is not the most conventional of heroines. Indeed, as the story progresses we find that her dreams of becoming a star singer of country music are so consuming that, despite being a single mother with two young children, she is prone to neglect them. Understandably, such behaviour puts her at odds with her mother who stresses the responsibilities that she has to these youngsters but, in dismissing as fantasy Rose-Lynn's belief that she could become a star in Nashville, Marion doesn't truly realise just how talented her daughter is.

 

Thanks to Buckley, the risky step of fielding a heroine whose behaviour is not above reproach works beautifully. It makes Rose-Lynn a believably complex figure and Buckley captures admirably both her strength and her underlying vulnerability. In addition to all that, Wild Rose echoes A Star is Born in featuring music as an essential ingredient and Buckley sings Rose-Lynn's songs herself, thus proving that her own star quality extends to her abilities as a singer.

 

Given the extent to which this film scores, it is perhaps surprising that there are weaker aspects. Rose-Lynn takes on a cleaning job working for a well-off businesswoman, Susannah (Sophie Okonedo), who becomes her mentor and helps to kick start her career. Unexpectedly Okonedo's performance is an uneasy one and Nicole Taylor's screenplay for all its daring in the characterisation of Rose-Lynn tends to succumb to clichés when it comes to plot developments (for example a promised week away with her children inevitably turns out to clash with essential rehearsals for a special appearance to raise funds arranged for her by Susannah).  Furthermore, Tom Harper's direction is at its least assured in presenting musical numbers to best effect, although the impact of the songs themselves minimises this weakness.

 

Julie Walters as the mother offers the best possible support by creating a wholly believable figure and totally refusing to overplay. But the spotlight is quite rightly on Rose-Lynn and those scenes that come close to cliché are readily ignored in the light of Buckley's achievement. Last year her acting in Beast impressed even though I for one found the piece unpersuasive. However, it is Wild Rose that sets the seal on her standing as an actress capable of touching an audience directly and to an extent that marks her out as special.

 

MANSEL STIMPSON

 

Cast: Jessie Buckley, Julie Walters, Sophie Okonedo, Jamie Sives, Craig Parkinson, James Harkness, Janey Godley, Daisy Littlefield, Adam Mitchell, Ryan Kerr, Nicole Kerr.

 

Dir Tom Harper, Pro Faye Ward, Screenplay Nicole Taylor, Ph George Steel, Pro Des Lucy Spink, Ed Mark Eckersley Music Jack Arnold, Costumes Anna Mary Scott Robbins.

 

Entertainment One/BFI/Creative Scotland/Film4/Fable Pictures-Entertainment Film Distributors.
100 mins. UK/Canada. 2018. Rel: 12 April 2019. Cert. 15.