WILD ROSE Film Review


WILD ROSE is a richly stirring human story about a young woman balancing her dreams of being a country music star with the responsibilities of motherhood

4 out of 5 stars

Actress Jessie Buckley delivers the star performance of the year in Tom Harper’s electrifying crowd pleaser WILD ROSE.

Fresh out of prison with a track record of bad behaviour, charisma and an electrifying set of vocal chords, WILD ROSE follows 23-year-old Rose-Lynn Harlan (Jessie Buckley), a single mum who dreams of becoming a country singer. But there’s one minor problem – she lives in Scotland. Fixated on going to Nashville, Rose-Lynn’s mother Marion (Julie Walters) would rather she stayed at home and focus on her two children but Rose-Lynn is more worked up about getting back her old singing gig back until her strict parole curfew and ankle tag puts a stop to her plans.

Enter Susannah (Sophie Okenedo), a wealthy woman who hires Rose-Lynn to clean her house. By chance, Susannah hears Rose-Lynn sing and decides to help make her dreams come true by throwing a fundraiser in her back yard to help Rose-Lynn get her ticket out of town. Will Rose-Lynn’s dreams to go to Nashville finally come true or will the responsibilities of motherhood get in the way?

On the surface, WILD ROSE sounds like the standard inspirational fairytale story we’ve all heard and seen before and in some ways, it is. Director Tom Harper hits all the narrative beats in the story – an ex-con from the wrong side of Glasgow who wants to make her mark in Nashville certainly makes a hell of a story. But what saves WILD ROSE from mediocrity is Nicole Taylor’s multi-layered script. Here, Rose’s journey doesn’t zig and zag in exactly the way you expect it to and Rose-Lynn’s maturity and growth is so believable that when she finally does achieve her dream, her actions at the end of the film completely blows us out of the park.

Of course, the film is nothing without the irrepressible Buckley who plays the eager, talented, messed-up heroine with pure fire. Taylor’s strategy here is to sweep you up in the narcissistic larger-than-life charge of Rose-Lynn’s personality and Buckley does just that. Even when Rose is annoying – which she often is – you can’t tear your eyes away from her. Add in a killer voice that will knock you off your feet and you can’t help but fall in love her.

Elsewhere, Julie Walters is excellent as Rose-Lynn’s no-nonsense working-class mother, while Sophie Okonedo is likable as Susannah, her friendship with Rose-Lynn driving the story forward.

Yet, while WILD ROSE certainly sweeps you away with its emotional highs and lows, a couple of sections feel clunky, most notably when Rose travels to London to meet BBC radio DJ Bob Harris (playing himself) to glean some advice on the music biz. These superfluous and crass moments ultimately detract from the screenplay’s central struggle and the film only feels safe again once Rose is back in Glasgow.

That said, WILD ROSE has a big heart and there is something delightful and fresh here. If you weren’t a country fan at the start of the film, you certainly will be by the end of it.

WILD ROSE screened at the BFI London Film Festival on 15 October 2018 and is released in UK cinemas from 12 April 2019.