“Wild Rose” is your average music drama which hits many familiar notes, but it distinguishes itself pretty well via its irrepressible spirit and personality. Right from the beginning, we can instantly see where it is heading along with its feisty heroine, but the movie often surprises and charms us with a number of wonderful moments to be appreciated, and it is also anchored well by its lively lead performance which may be one of notable star-making turns of this year.
When we are introduced to Rose-Lynn Harlan (Jessie Buckley) at the beginning, this brash Scottish lass is about to be released from a prison where she has been incarcerated for about a year due to some minor crime, and she is ready to follow her lifelong dream again. Since she was very young, she has aspired to be a successful country singer in Nashville someday, and she is quite determined to grab any opportunity for fulfilling her dream.
However, the situation turns out to be not that good for Rose-Lynn due to several reasons. When she returns to her neighborhood in Glasgow, her mother Marion (Julie Walters) welcomes her, but her two little children, who were taken care of by Marion during Rose-Lynn’s absence, are not particularly excited to see their mother again, and they are not so pleased when they will have to live along with her in a small flat. When Rose-Lynn returns to a local country club bar where she routinely performed before her incarceration, she is not welcomed much by its owner, and we soon see how she can often be her worst enemy because of her impulsive temper.
Anyway, through her mother’s friend, Rose-Lynn comes to work in a big, luxurious house belonging to Susannah (Sophie Okonedo) and her affluent middle-class family, and it does not take much time for this generous lady to get swept by Rose-Lynn’s enthusiasm on country music. After listening to a lot of those famous country songs, she comes to appreciate more of Rose-Lynn’s considerable potential as a singer, and that is followed by an amusing moment when Rose-Lynn blatantly asks Susannah for the money for going to Nashville.
Of course, Susannah says no like any sensible person would under her circumstance, but she instead suggests a good plan for promoting Rose-Lynn’s talent. She sends several people a video clip of Rose-Lynn performing a song, and, what do you know, that video clip eventually draws the attention from a certain well-known figure in BBC, who subsequently invites Rose-Lynn to his radio show in London.
After having a wonderful time in London, Rose-Lynn becomes more determined about going to Nashville, and Susannah is surely willing to help her more. She plans an evening party for her friends who may contribute some money to Rose-Lynn, and it seems all Rose-Lynn will have to do is giving one hell of performance in front of these people.
However, as many of you already expected, Rose-Lynn later finds herself quite conflicted about pursuing her dream. While she comes to clash with her mother for being occupied more with her dream instead of taking care of her children, she also comes to feel guilty as she did not tell everything about herself to Susannah from the beginning, and it is not much of a spoiler to tell you that she becomes a lot more troubled than before around the time when she must be ready for singing in front of Susannah’s guests.
While predictable at times, the screenplay by Nicole Taylor maintains well its balance between humor and sincerity, and it is certainly buoyed a lot by the strong personality of its heroine. Despite her many flaws, Rose-Lynn comes to us as an interesting woman to observe, and it is often touching to watch how she comes to grow up more during the bumpy journey toward her dream. Although the last scene of the movie may look a bit too convenient, the movie surely earns that moment via its gradual character development at least, and we certainly come to cheer a lot for her around that point.
The movie is also helped a lot by the engaging lead acting by Jessie Buckley, a young Irish newcomer who recently received considerable acclaim for her supporting turn in HBO TV miniseries “Chernobyl”. While deftly handling several music performance scenes for herself, Buckley also embodies well the human qualities of her character, and she is particularly wonderful when her character quietly comes to realize something important shortly after performing a song later in the story. In addition, Buckely is supported well by several notable supporting performers including Sophie Okonedo and Julie Walters, and Walters is dependable as usual while Okonedo imbues her rather thankless role with genuine warmth.
Directed by Tom Harper, “Wild Rose” is a crowd-pleaser as enjoyable as intended, and I was entertained enough by its story and characters as well as its music performance scenes. Yes, I do not have much interest in those country songs, but I did appreciate those wonderful musical moments in the film nonetheless, and I will not deny that I was both touched and amused by what its heroine demonstrates at the end of the film. After all, good country singers have each own story to tell, and now she has something to tell and sing about, doesn’t she?