Rose-Lynn Harlan (Jessie Buckley) has a name and a voice made for country music stardom. But she’s far from the many lights and big hair of Nashville, Tennessee.
The young Glaswegian singer has just walked out of a 12-month prison stint, right back to her mother Marion (Julie Walters), her two kids — named Wynonna and Lyle, of course — and what she feels is her destiny to get up on the same stages graced by the likes of Emmylou Harris and Hank Snow.
With a map of Nashville pinned to her wall, decked out in her uniform of white cowboy boots and fringed leather jacket, Rose-Lynn’s yearning to make it big is seeping from her every pore.
Her unbridled love for country music is infectious, and when she sings, Buckley’s full-throated and soulful voice has a touch of Aimee Mann.
On her arm, Rose-Lynn has tattooed Harlan Howard’s famous quote about country music “Three Chords and the Truth”, but Rose-Lynn, for all her talent and passion, spends half her time denying her own truth.
She starts working as a housekeeper for a well-to-do family where mum Susannah (Sophie Okonedo) has decided to champion Rose-Lynn’s ambitions, helping her make connections and fundraise her way to America.
Rose-Lynn can’t be honest with Susannah about her past or the fact she’s not untethered and has two children who rely on her — two children she lets down with her broken promises, trying to chase her dreams.
The story of an aspiring star with bucketloads of talent being torn between desire and responsibility is hardly new territory, but what elevates Wild Rose beyond the humdrum is Buckley’s incredible performance, pulsating with charisma and an irresistible energy.
The Irish star is an unstoppable force in this movie, her magnetism drawing you closer and closer to Rose-Lynn.
There’s not a single scene, and Buckley is in all of them, where you’re not 100 per cent rooting for her — even when she’s been prickly or tempestuous or letting her kids or her mum down.
Buckley’s is a complex, layered performance, full of confidence and vulnerability, the rawness of Rose-Lynn’s passion radiating in every syllable spoken and every note sung. You have to imagine something of Buckley’s own path to fame — getting her break on a reality singing competition show I’d Do Anything 10 years ago — informs the characterisation.
Wild Rose is only Buckley’s second film after 2017’s Beast, and she has some theatre and TV credits before that, including Chernobyl, Taboo and War & Peace, the latter of which was also directed by Tom Harper who helms this movie.
Watching Buckley is such an exciting experience because you feel like she’s performing just for you. She manages to establish an intimate connection between herself and the audience — and you know she’s going to be a big star.
To call Wild Rose a feel-good triumph feels reductive, but it literally makes you feel good and smile. How can you argue with that?
Wild Rose is in cinemas from Thursday, June 13
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