This review was originally published as part of our London Films Festival coverage on 16/10/2018.
Wild Rose‘s Rose-Lynn (Jessie Buckley) has all the trappings of a country star. A single mother and an ex-con with a name that just demands a Tennessee accent, she lives and breathes Country. Enamoured with the “three chords and the truth” found in true country songs, Rose-Lynn dreams of Nashville and stardom in Tom Harper’s uplifting tale.
With one white cowboy-booted foot always out the door, Rose-Lynn’s struggle for freedom often borders on selfishness, especially with regards to her two young kids (where do they fit in her Grand Ole Opry dreams?). But Buckley utterly sells Rose’s sheer hunger, and when we see the way she comes alive onstage, it’s hard to begrudge her these dreams.
The always-excellent Sophie Okonedo and Julie Walters give splendid supporting turns as Rose’s keen employer-turned-friend and long-suffering mother respectively, but the film, of course, belongs to Buckley. That Buckley is a talented singer/actress is no surprise – after all, she made her name on the BBC’s musical theatre competition I’d Do Anything, and impressed in Beast earlier this year. But a quick glance at the film’s credits reveals her as a co-writer for many of Rose-Lynn’s tunes, adding a further, brilliant depth to this star-making performance.
Nicole Taylor’s script is full of gems (Rose-Lynn’s quintessentially Glaswegian response to a naysayer stating no one wants to see an ex-con perform? “Johnny Cash was a convicted criminal, ya bawbag”) – but it crucially manages to reign in any X-Factor mawkishness. It’s a film that’s just as much about accepting your responsibilities as it is chasing your dreams at any cost – and inhabiting that funny middle ground that often exists between.
Jessie Buckley’s soaring performance is an absolute must-see. Selfish, loveable, and at times heartbreaking, Rose-Lynn is a gift of a character. Now when can we order the soundtrack album?
CAST: Jessie Buckley, Sophie Okonedo, Julie Walters
DIRECTOR: Tom Harper
WRITER: Nicole Taylor
SYNOPSIS: Glaswegian single mother Rose-Lynn (Buckley) dreams of country music stardom in Nashville. When her employer Susannah expresses an interest in helping fund that dream, Rose-Lynn is forced to reconcile her dreams with her responsibilities.