Jacob Richardson | 10/06/2019
A warts-and-all look at the price of hope.
Rose-Lynn (Jessie Buckley) is a Glaswegian country singer; not a country and western singer, mind you. Make that mistake and you’ll be sure to be on the end of a vicious tirade from the fiery, red headed ex-convict. She dreams of becoming a star in Nashville, but in her mind she is tied down by her recently finished prison sentence and her two kids, Lyle (Adam Mitchell) and Wynonna (Daisy Littlefield). When her mother (the spectacular Julie Walters as Marion) makes her take up a cleaning job for wealthy Susannah (Sophie Okonedo), Rose-Lynn finds someone who believes in her enough to convince her to make some stronger pushes to realise her dream. But Rose-Lynn increasingly finds that this creates a trade-off between her dreams and taking proper care of her kids, and despite the push from her frustrated mother and the fury behind her children’s eyes, Rose-Lynn can’t shake the feeling that her dream of Nashville is the most important thing in her life.
Directed by Tom Harper, Wild Rose is anchored in two indelible performances. The first is from the wild rose herself. As Rose-Lynn, Buckley is impossibly energetic, wildly likeable (despite her many flaws as a mother and as a human being) and a hell of a lot of fun to root for. She is also blessed with an incredible voice, and some of the most impressive parts of this film are found in the singing moments. One particular sun-emblazoned webcam recording session absolutely sucks you in.
She is ably supported by Julie Walters. Together, despite being at nearly opposite ends of the spectrum in terms of their career journeys, they prove they are two of the most spectacular actors working today. Nowhere is this more clear than in a beautiful, heart-wrenching scene towards the end when Marion tries to return some hope to Rose-Lynn. The two actresses feed off each other to dial the emotion up to 11, and it pays off in spades.
A lesser director may have made a mess of this, but Harper proves his ability time and time again. Whether it is keeping close on Rose-Lynn in a triumphant return performance at her resident bar, or in having the confidence to let the camera rest for what seems like an eternity on Walters as she brings the acting talent, Harper keeps the tension, pathos, and energy humming for the duration of this 100 minute film.
That being said, it is not an easy film to watch; particularly when interrogating the neglect of Rose-Lynn’s two children. While everyone wants to see success at the end of a search for stardom flick like this, there needed to be more interrogation about how this mother was impacting her kids. In many ways, this is symptomatic of the film as a whole; it focuses so strongly on Rose-Lynn that the supporting characters often get pushed to the side. While that is fine for a one-note supporting player like Susannah, when dealing with something as critically painful as neglect of a child, there is a responsibility to do more with those characters that is never truly addressed here.
Wild Rose is wildly entertaining, but don’t let that fool you; there is great depth to be found in this piece.