Wild Rose review Jessie Buckley

Year: 2019
Director(s): Tom Harper
Writer(s): Nicole Taylor
Region of Origin: UK
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Rating: R
Color, 100 mins

Synopsis: A musician from Glasgow dreams of becoming a Nashville star. (Source)

Cinema is full of singers trying to chase “the dream.” Wild Rose finally tells this story from a slightly new perspective. Anchored by the electric Jessie Buckley, and bound by Tom Harper’s winning direction, the film positions itself as one thing, but ends up somewhere unpredictable. It’s also a textbook case of the right material for the right star. Buckley takes charge by force, delivering one of the year’s best performances and an easy excuse to pay attention. With its heartfelt execution and exuberance, the film plays and sounds like a song that reminds us of the past but has its own unique hook.

On the day she gets out of jail, Glasgow local Rose-Lynn (Jessie Buckley) resets her sights on a lifelong dream: international country rockstar. The plan is to cross the pond to Nashville and earn a place amongst her heroes. She’s sung in local bars her entire life, has the pipes and the energy to really shake things up, but, of course, there are a lot of hurdles. House arrest keeps her options slim, while the oppression of her small town and those around her keep her tethered. She’s also got two young kids who have never really known their mother. Rose’s own mom is perpetually forced to clean up after her. A chance meeting offers a small chance of hope, but the closer Rose comes to her dream, the more she has to deal with its complicated implications.   

More than most, Harper’s film is one that understands the strength of its heroine. He allows her to completely dictate the film’s ebb and flow. With Buckley’s innate ferocity, there isn’t a dull moment, taking us through mundane reality and giving it spark. Rather than a meteoric rise, Harper and screenwriter Nicole Taylor explore how tough it is to even get a foot in the door. In essence, Rose’s journey is a woman torn between worlds. With the help of a few emotional musical numbers, the story renders a nuanced portrait of passion and sacrifice. It’s got highs, lows and amounts to a truly crowd-pleasing effort.

Wild Rose Jessie Buckley

As mentioned, the film’s shining light is Jessie Buckley. Even if the film weren’t as accomplished, she’d still make it worth the watch. This is one of those rare cases in which a performer completely disappears into their character. Buckley is never less than genuine at any point, with a heroine who is realistically flawed but also a presence that we can’t look away from. Opposite, Julie Walters and Sophie Okonedo offer Buckley some great characters to bounce off of. They flesh out Rose’s world and her difficulties with sincere realism.

Wild Rose doesn’t just go through its literal song and dance, but dissects the implications of stardom and dreams to sobering effect. And while it isn’t groundbreaking by any means, it’s a welcome entry into an overcrowded genre. Though things do feel a bit contrived towards the end, Harper and co find satisfying catharsis. The film doesn’t betray either side of Rose’s conflicting worlds, but finds a resolution that feels honest and earned.