Wild Rose

A Star Is Born
Verdict: 
8/10 – Jessie Buckley commands attention in this music drama that feels like a merging of Billy Elliott and Once.
Release Date: 
Friday, April 12, 2019
Written by: 

Wild Rose tells the story of a young musician from Glasgow who dreams of becoming a Nashville star.

8

Films chronicling the dramatic lives of country music artists are nothing new.

In recent years, there has been Crazy Heart, Walk the Line, Country Strong, and even 2018's incarnation of A Star Is Born featuring Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga.

New release Wild Rose ticks all of the boxes for a country classic in the making too, though there is one major difference - it is centred on a young woman living in Glasgow, Scotland.

Directed by Tom Harper from a screenplay by Nicole Taylor, the story kicks off with Rose-Lynn Harlan (Jessie Buckley) making her exit from prison after serving 12 months for a drug offence, with an inmate heard yelling in the background, "You're gonna be the next Dolly Parton!"

Yes, Rose-Lynn dreams of becoming the next big Nashville name, but it quickly becomes apparent when she returns to her working-class neighbourhood just how unrealistic her goals are.

Back home, Rose-Lynn not only has to contend with an evening curfew and an electronic monitoring tag under her white cowboy boots, but she has to take over parenting duties for her young son and daughter, who have been cared for by her long-suffering mother Marion (Julie Walters) while she was locked up.

Rose-Lynn begrudgingly takes up a job as a housekeeper for wealthy mother Susannah (Sophie Okonedo) and concentrates on her building up some sense of credibility with her mum and kids, yet her time inside hasn't dampened her rebellious spirit, and she sets about gigging at Glasgow's Grand Ole Opry club whenever a moment allows.

When she performs, Rose-Lynn is utterly absorbed into the moment, with her heavy Scottish accent melting away, and her heart able to soar with each and every lyric. As a viewer, it's impossible not to want to cheer her on.

In spite of the highs and lows, and there are many of them, the budding singer eventually makes some strides in her chosen direction, and with some serious nudging from her mother and Susannah, she first ventures to London before following her Yellow Brick Road to Tennessee.

A spontaneous performance at a Nashville theatre, no matter how good, would usually be enough to send a musical film into a Hollywood cliche. But here, the writer and director do better than that and wisely take Rose-Lynn's journey on a more unexpected path, which is both optimistic and satisfying.

With Wild Rose, Irish actress Buckley turns in a star-making performance, and not only manages to hit all the right notes, but balances naivety and confidence in her characterisation.

Her cool interactions with Walters are some of the most memorable, with the always reliable British star critical in driving key narrative threads relating to dysfunction, motivation, and parenthood.

Be sure to also watch out for cameo appearances from Kacey Musgraves, Ashley McBryde, and British country music champion Bob Harris.

In all, if a cross between Billy Elliott and Once with a touch of Coal Miner's Daughter sounds like your cup of whiskey, Wild Rose is for you.

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