The new semi-musical film Wild Rose follows a troubled woman whose lies constantly prevent her from reaching her potential. For fans of country music, stories like this are often the biggest draw, and Wild Rose does not disappoint. Jessie Buckley is perfectly cast as Rose-Lynn, a Scottish ex-con with a dream of moving to Nashville to pursue a career in country music. Buckley embraces the “wild” Rose, who exudes irresistible energy in all that relates to her music, but is seemingly lost as a result of her selfish behaviors. Not only is Buckley a great singer, she also is an excellent actor.
The film doesn’t condemn Rose-Lynn for having serious character faults, and it doesn’t betray the rest of her family for struggling to handle her inconsistency. She’s very charming, chatty, and strong-willed. Her conviction to make singing her career could’ve gone to a complete halt after her prison stay, but her first job out led her to an opportunity she couldn’t turn down. These incredibly lucky coincidences are the stuff of dreams, and yet, she manages to get equally bad luck.
She knows her dreams may be out of reach, but her choices are what hold her back more than anything: her neglect of her children, her strained relationships with the other adults in her life, and her past all catch up to her before she has time to process that she responds in mostly lies. She depends on the generosity of others, believing that they will absolve her sins, including the disconnection from her two young children. As a part of her release, she’s required to wear an ankle monitoring device and follow a curfew.
Through the patronage of her wealthy employer (Sophie Okonedo), she gains the freedom to start performing again at the local Glasgow country music venue. A great deal of conversation comes from the fact that she is a Scottish country singer (not country & western). Rose-Lynn’s response is tattooed on her arm: “three chords and the truth”. Her voice backs her assured attitude; anytime she hears music she is swept into her own world, where she’s often dancing in an empty room to her favorite songs. The film takes this fantasy into the next level by slowly adding musicians in the background as she sings, filling the room sonically and visually. These moments are when she feels the most herself, and the person she wants to be is able to shine for a moment before being trapped behind her selfish behavior. Getting yourself together to get an ankle monitor removed is not the same as being your best self, and she demonstrates this time and time again. It’s easy to become exasperated with this clearly talented young woman.
Her mother (Julie Walters) is one of the only people who gives her tough love. She cares for Rose-Lynn’s children as though they are her own, something all too familiar to see some households. Yet she is not the only person who goes out of their way to “help” Rose-Lynn out: she leans heavily on members of her community, and even her employer to give her opportunities to make promises she won’t deliver on. She’s addicted to the idea that others will take care of her, all the while never stepping up in turn for those who do.
A film like this needs a strong cast to support the weight of its statements. It’s heavy at times, but that’s a big part of the themes and draw of country music, too. A few “big” names in country music make cameos, but they are woven seamlessly into the rest of the film. Like Rose-Lynn’s friends and supporters, these cameos come from the belief that it will be worth the end product. Thankfully, it follows through.