By Pat Mullen
If Ally Campana and Jackson Maine had a smokin’ hot threesome with Susan Boyle, the star born from the passionate tryst would be Rose-Lynn Harlan. Played by an outstanding Jessie Buckley, Rose is a hot mess of an aspiring singer/ex-con from Glasgow with dreams of being a country star. She struts out of the slammer with the confidence of Johnny Cash when the film introduces her sporting cowgirl boots and a sparking house arrest anklet. She returns to her two kids, named Lyle and Wynonna after her country idols, and mother Marion (Julie Walters) who shudders when Rose resumes talk of pursuing her dreams in Nashville.
Rose’s day under house arrest is such a booze-fuelled bender that loses her gig at the Glasgow Grand Ole Opry and barely makes curfew. In an effort to straighten her out, Marion gets Rose a job cleaning the home of a wealthy socialite, Susannah (Sophie Okonedo). Rose makes the best of it, belting out country tunes as she vacuums the floor while guzzling Susannah’s whisky. When Susannah’s kids overhear Rose singing, though, Susannah gears into bleeding heart mode (far too conveniently) and makes it her mission to realize Rose’s dreams.
Wild Rose deviates little from the well-trodden formula of movies about stars in the making. However, artists record traditional country songs over and again and director Tom Harper delivers a wild, moving, and boot-stompingly good cover on a film we’ve seen before. Wild Rose will make a country fan out of anyone since it lives by Rose’s belief that music is “three chords and the truth,” a motto tattooed on her arm that is best read when she raises her fist to her heart. Fuelled by an excellent soundtrack of country tunes, the film closes with a mic drop of an original song, “No Place Like Home” (written by actress Mary Steenburgen) that shows the range of Buckley’s talent as Rose reconciles her dreams with her duties in Glasgow.
Buckley delivers on the promise of her breakthrough performance in last year’s Beast and creates a true dreamer in Rose, a woman of unbridled energy and hunger with one hell of a voice. She owns the stage as Rose accepts that the heart of Nashville beats wherever she plays her tunes. Wild Rose is a film for anyone who aspires to live the dream—and pursues it anyway long after realizing it’s out of reach.
Wild Rose opens theatrically on July 5.