Directed by: Tom Harper | 101 minutes | comedy, drama | Actors: Jessie Buckley, Julie Walters, James Harkness, Adam Mitchell, Daisy Littlefield, Louise Mccarthy, Allison Simpson, Janey Godley, Brian McQuade, Craig Parkinson, Margaret MacKenzie, Sophie Okonedo
Three chords and the truth – three chords and the truth. That’s how country legend Harlan Howard once defined the perfect country song. The simplicity and sincerity that can be found in the music is also reflected in the British (!) Musical drama ‘Wild Rose’ (2018) by director Tom Harper, who we know from the TV series ‘Peaky Blinders’ and the miniseries ‘War and Peace’. The wild rose of the title is Rose Lynn Harlan (the name is undoubtedly a nod to Harlan Howard), a rude, impulsive twenties who aspires to become a well-known country artist. That in itself is difficult enough, but especially if you come from a disadvantaged neighborhood in the Scottish city of Glasgow, have an ankle bracelet on your leg because of a drug offense and have two young children who depend on you. The role of Rose Lynn is played by Irish actress Jessie Buckley, who made a deep impression with her role in the ominous 2017 ‘Beast’ and is one of the greatest talents of her generation. In “Wild Rose” she not only steals the show with her acting, but she also sings the stars from the sky. According to the actress herself, that musicality is in her Irish blood. In fact, “Wild Rose” is an unpolished take on “A Star is Born” (2018), more raw and straight, and with a lead actress to fall in love with.
When we get to know Rose, she’s just getting released from prison. Only later do we discover that she was imprisoned for a year for drug trafficking. “You will be the new Dolly Parton!”, She is yelled at as she leaves her cell with her clenched fist in the air. “We will miss your song in the morning,” confides the warden. Rose proudly steps out of prison in her white Stetson boots, into her freedom and future. She can sing, we soon discover that. Her dream is to go to Nashville – the country music mecca – and make it there. But reality puts her back on the Scottish tarmac with both feet. There will have to be money first and at The Grand Ole Opry, the club where she has been on stage since she was fourteen, has now contracted another artist. And she can nicely tuck her anklet into her Stetsons, but that doesn’t prevent her from having to be home at set times. While Rose stares at her American dream, her mother (Julie Walters) hopes she will finally take her responsibility and take care of her two children. While Rose was in jail, she took eight-year-old Wynonna (Daisy Littlefield) and five-year-old Lyle (Adam Mitchell) under her wing, but now she can pick it up herself again. The children are clearly damaged by what they have been through in their short lives and need stability – and their mother. But Rose doesn’t just want to give up on her dream. She takes a job as a cleaner with the wealthy Susannah (Sophie Okonedo), who accidentally hears her singing and enthusiastically encourages her to pursue her musical career. She forgets to mention that Rose has two children at home. Her mother watches with sorrow how Rose works in an impossible split between her dream as a musician and reality as a young mother where it is difficult to get out.
“Wild Rose” resembles films we’ve seen many times before: about a young woman who has to overcome setbacks in order to make her dream come true. On the way, she clashes with her loving but concerned mother who has always sacrificed herself for her child and finds the pursuit of dreams and ambitions selfish. And the altruistic, well-meaning “girlfriend” with money and time who sees a challenge in making her “project” a success. But “Wild Rose” gives it a slightly different twist, making the film less predictable than you might think at first glance. Would it matter that this is a British film and not an American one? Where you initially think Rose’s final destination is Nashville, Tennessee, her real goal turns out to be much closer to home. Screenwriter Nicole Taylor, known for the penetrating miniseries “Three Girls” (2017) about a gigantic loverboy scandal that gripped Britain, cleverly interweaves urgent themes such as motherhood, sacrifice and the choices women have to make in life. Because above all, this is a film from a female perspective (Rose’s father and her children’s father do not appear in the film at all and Rose may have a fling (James Harkness) but she decides what happens and when). If Rose had been a man, there would have been no conflict at all. And so this film is also about gender inequality Women carry the film and they are two top actresses who are largely responsible for making this film much better than many of its peers. Julie Walters has never been caught in a bad role and is wonderful here as the caring mother and grandmother who has always effaced but certainly won’t let her daughter in on her responsibility. A woman with a fantastic big heart! And then Jessie Buckley, the red-haired Irishman who is bubbling and bubbling with energy. A true powerhouse that splashes off the screen in both large and smaller scenes, with a mischievous sparkle in her eyes. A woman who can also sing wonderfully and who convincingly translates the raw, pure of country music into the gray city of Glasgow. We really want to see more of Jessie Buckley soon!