By: Jolie Featherstone
“Three chords and the truth” – Harlan Howard’s oft-quoted definition of country music may well describe the soul of Wild Rose. Directed by Tom Harper and written by Nicole Taylor, Wild Rose is a classic underdog tale with an endlessly watchable underdog in the form of the fiery Rose-Lynn Harlan.
Hailing from a working-class neighborhood in Glasgow, Rose-Lynn Harlan lives for the soulful twang of country music. Now in her twenties, Rose-Lynn is fresh out of jail and a mom of two young children. However, she is aching to high-tail it out of Glasgow and make it big as a country singer in Nashville. Her long-suffering mother, Marion (played by the legendary Dame Julie Walters), has been taking care of Rose-Lynn’s kids during her imprisonment and is cautious about Rose-Lynn’s return. Marion’s well-concealed anxiety hinges on Rose-Lynn’s erratic temperament.
Ushered by her mother towards taking responsibility for her children and household, Rose-Lynn takes a cleaning job within the home of the wealthy, but kind, Susannah (played by Oscar-nominated actress Sophie Okonedo). Enthralled by Rose-Lynn’s talent, Susannah encourages her to take action toward realizing her dream of superstardom.
In the role of Rose-Lynn, a young woman from a hard-scrabble neighbourhood who longs to live the American Dream, Jessie Buckley concocts an infectiously alluring character. Rose-Lynn is frenetic, impulsive, and constantly darting in different directions with little thought toward the repercussions of her moves. She is also charming, witty, and unfiltered. Many movie-goers were introduced to Buckley in 2017 through her bewitching lead performance in the psychological-thriller, Beast. Recently, audiences will recognize her from HBO’s hit mini-series, Chernobyl. Buckley never fails to elicit intrigue and compassion in her performances. Her characters feel wholly alive on the screen. After seeing her electric performance as Rose-Lynn, audiences are sure to be smitten with this Irish export.
Although Wild Rose is very much a classic underdog tale, it is refreshing to see such a “flawed” character be portrayed without a highly moralistic lens. Throughout her journey, the audience comes to root for Rose-Lynn to find peace.
The film does offer some refreshing elements to the classic underdog tale, particularly in its approach toward class consciousness and the interpersonal focus on platonic relationships between women as opposed to a romantic relationship. These two elements are mirrored by Rose-Lynn’s mother, Marion, and Rose-Lynn’s employer, Susannah. Rose-Lynn’s progress is buffeted, pitched forward, and pulled back many times through her relationships with these women. Marion lives in a working-class neighborhood and has worked at a bakery for over 20 years, while also raising Rose-Lynn’s children. Conversely, Susannah enjoys a life of financial privilege. She lives in a gorgeous, gated home with an expansive backyard. Her children appear to attend a private school. She has a wide network of affluent connections. Marion’s socioeconomic situation is apparent in her very physicality: the constant tension in her stance and her face. She does not let her guard down. Susannah moves through the world fluidly, and with apparent ease. Though they both act from very different perspectives, both women act as catalysts, contributors, and challengers to Rose-Lynn throughout her journey.
Wild Rose has been commonly referred to as a kitchen-sink dramedy, which is not inaccurate but the term falls short of describing the gritty, pure fun the film delivers. The ending is not entirely unpredictable. As Ben Kenigsberg mentioned in his review of Wild Rose for The New York Times: “Wild Rose bypasses two potentially hard-hitting endings for a softer landing.” A more daring conclusion would have surely set the film apart from its genre contemporaries. However, the final scene of the film does feel human and is sure to please.
The soundtrack is fantastic, with plenty of toe-tapping, sing-along hits. Buckley herself co-wrote original songs for the film. Actress Mary Steenburgen and award-winning country artist Chris Stapleton contribute songs as well. The addictive soundtrack is much like the movie –full of grit, warmth, and heart. Wild Rose is an inspiring fish-out-of-water story of a young woman learning how to balance her passions, values, responsibilities, and family while discovering her own identity –with many entertaining highs and lows along the way.
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Jolie Featherstone: @TOFilmFiles