This film wasn’t really on my radar before now. I’d heard little snippets about it and I saw a brief clip of it at the BAFTAs when they were highlighting Jessie Buckley’s nomination for the EE Rising Star Award, but apart from that, I didn’t really know anything about it. However, since I’ve got a Cineworld Unlimited Card, there are certain times when I can see films early and Wild Rose was one of those times so I decided to give it a chance, and I’m glad I did, this is a really solid film.
The film focuses on Rose-Lynn, a woman living in Glasgow who has just been released from prison following a years sentence for throwing blocks of heroin into the prison, with dreams of going to Nashville to pursue a career as a country singer. However, she finds herself limited by her lack of money and having an ankle tag as a condition of her release, although she does find work as a cleaner for a woman named Susannah. However, there are also issues with Rose-Lynn’s fractured relationship with her family resulting from her year in prison and constant broken promises, with this especially causing strain between Rose-Lynn and her mum Marion. The film does a good job at presenting the difficulties faced by Rose-Lynn. We do get an indication of the difficulties she faces as an ex-con and the shame she feels about it, choosing to hide that fact away from Susannah. The film also does a good job at showing the difficult balancing act of pursuing dreams and responsibility to family. At some points in the film, Rose-Lynn goes the wrong direction in this regard, choosing to put her needs above that of her children through broken promises and even hiding the existence of her children from Susannah. These factors help to show Rose-Lynn as a more complicated character, willing to put in the work when she puts her mind to it, but it’s putting her mind to it that’s the difficult part. There are also solid points raised about the practicality of following dreams in this regard. The film does acknowledge the talent that Rose-Lynn has, but there’s always this sense of reality that comes into play in terms of how much she has to sacrifice one way or another and the discussion of whether to allow reality to smother dreams. I did find that there were some pacing issues though, the third act going on a little bit too long and feeling a bit heavy handed with the themes, but not to the detriment of the film overall.
The performances meanwhile help to make the film work. I’ve not really been familiar with the growing rise of Jessie Buckley (I have vague memories of seeing her on I’d Do Anything (the reality show to decide who was going to play Nancy in a West End production of Oliver) but not much else) but if her other performances are anywhere close to her performance here, then it’s no wonder she’s been on such a rise. She does a great job showing the difficulties she faces, making it so, even if you don’t agree with the decisions she makes, you understand where she’s coming from and how much she clearly regrets it when she’s not able to spend time with her family. It also helps that Buckley is an excellent singer, helping to sell the passion and skill the character has for country music, with a scene where she interacts with Bob Harris (the host of a country show on Radio 2) being a prime showcase for her joy and enthusiasm for country music. Julie Walters as Marion is also excellent. There’s this sense of support that Walters provides, showing the love Marion has for Rose-Lynn and her grandchildren, but there’s also a pragmatism to her, being willing to call out Rose-Lynn when she betrays the trust of her children and making sure that Rose-Lynn keeps the balance of her dreams and reality in check. Sophie Okonedo as Susannah is also solid, showing her supportive side towards Rose-Lynn, with the chemistry between Okonedo and Buckley creating a friendship between the two, but one where there is this sense of fiction to the whole thing, since Rose-Lynn keeps her past hidden.
Overall, Wild Rose is a solid film, with well executed themes about the nature of music dreams, with this held together by excellent performances, especially from Jessie Buckley, who is establishing herself as a true rising talent in the British film industry. There are some pacing issues in the third act, but the film as a whole is a solid piece of entertainment.
My Rating: 4/5