Wild Rose

****1/2

Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Wild Rose
"Nicole Taylor's quickfire script provides great material for the actors to work with ." | Photo: Courtesy of Tribeca Film Festival

In recent years Jessie Buckley has emerged as one of the most vital young talents in cinema. Films like Beast and Judy have won her well-deserved critical attention, and she brings the same freshness and immediacy to Tom Harper's Wild Rose, which proved an audience favourite when it premièred at the 2019 Glasgow Film Festival. Opening as her character - Rose - is released from prison, the film follows its bolshy heroine on her quest to make it as a country singer despite living 3,923 miles away from Nashville.

Talented, passionate and determined but completely lacking in the kind of social and organisational skills necessary to establish new business relationships, Rose gets a break when she starts working as a housekeeper for Susannah (Sophie Okonedo), a well connected middle class woman who takes her under her wing and becomes determined to help her succeed. There are complications, however. Rose has to impress the justice system enough to get her tag removed so she can travel. She has to face up to her responsibilities as a mother and resolve the problems in her relationship with her own mother. And she has to figure out what makes her different as an artist - what she actually has to say.

Shot in and around Glasgow (which has a small but feisty country scene previously explored onscreen in John Byrne mini series Your Cheatin' Heart) the film has natural appeal to locals. Its stark portrait of working class life points up the very real barriers its heroine faces but doesn't make excuses for her. Julie Walters is excellent as her mother, who has looked after her children for a year and whom she still expects to have at her beck and call after release; she's an equally complex character and the unexamined way in which the two have projected their hopes and frustrations onto one another lies at the film's dramatic core. Rose dreams of going to Nashville to make it big in the same vague way that many young actors dream about going to LA. Her mother knows it's unrealistic but is perhaps too quick to dismiss her talent - and her determination. both of them have to make their own mistakes.

Nicole Taylor's quickfire script provides great material for the actors to work with and music is well woven into the film, telling us a lot about Rose's thoughts and feelings without taking ownership of the narrative until the big final number than every viewer knows is coming. Buckley is as expressive when singing as when talking and proves expert at shifting registers between the musical and dramatic, comic and tragic scenes. A strain of fierce, energetic humour runs throughout and despite Rose's various setbacks and moments of uncertainty, never slackens its pace. It's a love song to Glasgow like practically everything made there, but it's a film that people will fall in love with all over the world.

Reviewed on: 17 Nov 2019
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A Glasgwegian single mum tries to make it in the world of country music.


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