directed by Tom Harper
A drama about a Clydeside country singer plays its own bittersweet tune.
It is, however, highly enjoyable and surprisingly unpredictable. The screenplay sets up what feels like a formula showbiz story, then neatly upends it. It’s also powered by a terrific lead performance – both acting and singing – by Jessie Buckley, most recently seen being equally magnetic in last year’s psycho thriller Beast.
Here, she plays the headstrong Rose-Lynn Harlan, a name that borders on nominative determination for someone who’s a country singer. We first meet her being released from a year in jail, with “three chords and the truth” tattooed on her arm, an ankle monitor inside her cowboy boots and a renewed determination to take her voice to Nashville, Tennessee (seemingly, the movie isn’t worried about US visa exemptions for aspiring country divas with a prison record).
Rose-Lynn has long been a regular at “Glasgow’s Grand Ole Opry” (a real venue), but she figures there’s got to be more to it than performing to lagered-up, line-dancing grannies. But not only does she have an overnight curfew, she’s also got her rock-solid mother, Marion (Julie Walters), reminding her that her young children (whose father or fathers are long gone) might need a parent more than she needs to follow her dreams.
After Rose-Lynn gets a house-cleaning job, her employer, Susannah (Sophie Okonedo), starts supporting her musical ambitions in a well-meaning, middle-class way.
About now, you might think you know how this is going to turn out. But about then, Wild Rose makes a key change – just when it’s heading for a resolving major, it opts for a minor refrain that turns this into something bittersweet.
It’s got its contrivances and occasional corniness (the grand-finale song especially), but this tale of country-on-Clydeside is a fine reminder of the genre’s human touch, and Buckley makes Wild Rose bloom into something special.
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Video: Universal Pictures NZ
This article was first published in the June 22, 2019 issue of the New Zealand Listener.