Self styled country outlaw Rose-Lynn Harlan (Jessie Buckley) is out of jail and ready to chase her dreams. A talented country singer, her goal is Nashville (where else?), but Rose-Lynn is torn between starting fresh or finally taking responsibility for the life she’s made in Glasgow, involving two young children who barely know their mother.
Featuring outstanding performances and a soundtrack that features Buckley singing her soul out, its probably no surprise that Wild Rose is already being compared to that Lady Gaga film from last year. But Wild Rose is an entirely different beast, staying rooted amid the grit of Glasgow’s Priesthill, and in its own quiet way offers much more than a tale of superstardom and the trappings of fame.
Buckley is, quite honestly, a revelation. Funny, genuine, and fierce, Rose-Lynn runs the full emotional gamut, and Buckley is there every step of the way. It’s a credit to the actor that a little part of us always roots for Rose-Lynn, even when she’s at her most unlikeable and unreliable. Screw up after screw up, all is forgiven when the young woman begins to sing, and Buckley ensures that Nashville becomes the audience’s dream as much as Rose-Lynn’s.
Meanwhile, Sophie Okenedo is superbly sweet as Rose-Lynn’s employer and biggest fan, a role that’s sometimes a little hard to watch play out as Rose-Lynn lies about her family and raids Susannah’s liquor cabinet. As a character, she’s a touch one-dimensional, and perhaps a little too naive, but Okenedo’s performance is great, and it’s a successful foil for Rose-Lynn’s weary mother Marion (the always brilliant Julie Walters).
It’s Marion who you’re often the most supportive of, as she tries to push Rose-Lynn to focus on what she has and reconnect with her kids. Thanks both to the fantastic script and Walters’ performance, Marion is steered well and truly clear of baddie-status, safe from caricature and with her own story yet to be revealed.
Lead roles aside, the star of the movie is, of course, the music. Featuring a couple of original tracks, as well as covers sung by Buckley herself, people will be positively rushing to buy the Wild Rose soundtrack. Buckley’s voice is stunning and strong, injecting the same vulnerability into her singing as she does into Rose-Lynn. A few unobtrusive cameos from country stars round out the experience, showing a love and reverence for the genre that’s almost impossible not to share, whatever your own musical tastes.
Wild Rose is a welcome addition to the British music movie canon, joining the likes of Sunshine on Leith, Brassed Off, and Little Voice. Superbly acted, well written, and, of course, musically sound, ignore those who are calling it the “new” A Star Is Born and enjoy it on its own wonderful terms.
FOUR AND A HALF STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
Wild Rose is in select cinemas from Thursday. Check out the trailer below!