Wild Rose is about big dreams with even bigger collateral damage.
Rose-Lynn (Jessie Buckley) is twenty-three, fresh out of prison with an electronic tag under her white cowgirl boots, dreaming of making it big in Nashville.
You’d expect her to speak with a Southern twang, but her quick-witted and often cynical comments are delivered in thick Glaswegian accent. This juxtaposition – rain-washed Scotland, dressed up in tassels, Stetson’s and bootscootin’ boots – creates an unfamiliar cinematic landscape, and director Tom Harper navigates the tension between these two aesthetics with finesse.
Wild Rose constantly challenged my perspective of its less-than-perfect protagonist. Half the time I was gunning for her as the underdog – to make it big, to meet the right person who would introduce her to the right people, to realise her dream and become a household name. However, Rose-Lynn isn’t free to pursue her dreams without a care in the world – she has two young children from teenage relationships who are old enough to understand abandonment, and boy are we constantly reminded of this. Each time she dropped her children at a neighbour’s to rehearse for a potential gig, or forgot to buy them promised fish and chips for dinner, had me metaphorically shaking my fist at the screen.
While it is frustrating to watch this woman struggle so spectacularly at balancing her dreams and her reality, Wild Rose’s important commentary on class barriers is nuanced and well executed. As the upper-middle-class potential benefactor, Susannah, played by Sophie Okonedo absolutely shines – she is naïve to the unique struggles of Rose’-Lynn’s life and despite her best efforts, she can’t fulfil the rich saviour stereotype so often relied on in films of this nature. The idea that money and good intentions sometimes aren’t enough to break through is refreshing and rings true.
With a sweet cameo by country radio extraordinaire Bob Harris and an outstanding performance by Julie Walters as Rose-Lynn’s long-suffering mother, Wild Rose showcases the long-reaching impacts that doggedly following one’s dreams can have on family and personal relationships. But it isn’t all bleak, in fact, Wild Rose is inspiring and uplifting.
It would be remiss to review this film without mentioning the killer soundtrack. Jessie Buckley’s voice is phenomenal, and her energy on stage is infectious. The film features a number of covers of classic country songs sure to delight country fans while original songs co-written by Buckley are modern, catchy and elevate Wild Rose to a level of its own.
Wild Rose was screened at Dingle International Film Festival in Co Kerry, Ireland – The same county where Jessie Buckley was born.