WILD ROSE gets 7.5/10 In full bloom

Directed by Tom Harper

Starring Jessie Buckley, Julie Walters, Sophie Okonedo


A country singer struggling with their working-class roots, criminal record and everyday job to pursue their dreams of stardom is certainly not a new story, but it’s rare you get to see the dream of Nashville from a Celtic perspective. Wild Rose stretches from the council estates of Scotland to the home of country music as it charts the determined voyage of one Rose-Lynn.

After being released from prison, Rose-Lynn Harlan (Jessie Buckley), struggles to make a life for herself while pursuing her dream of being a country music singer. Alienated from her children by their separation, she attempts to rebuild their relationship while working as a house cleaner in an upper-class neighbourhood. Yet despite the disapproval of her mother (Julie Walters), and vast distance (both cultural and geographical) between her Glasgow and Nashville, she always feels the strong pull of the music in her country heart.

There’s a certain genius to removing a genre from its normal setting. It adds a freshness to the proceedings, allowing you not only to go back to basics and re-examine what it is about the story that works in the first place but also highlighting the themes that it touches upon that are universal. In Wild Rose, it is the nature of country music to speak about issues of poverty and the marginalised – be that from a ramshackle farmstead in Tennessee, or an estate flat in Glasgow. The refrain of “three chords and the truth” is certainly born out here, as we see the struggle from Harlan to keep a dream alive, while faced with the everyday pressures of putting food on the table.

Wild Rose also rests on a trio of strong female performances. Jessie Buckley (after a stunning debut in the thriller Beast) is magical as Rose-Lynn Harlan, bringing a complex range of emotions to bear to create something genuine. She’s a flawed character, perhaps not entirely selfish, but certainly thoughtless and immature, yet still with a love of family. However on the stage, she’s in a world of her own, and it is that stagecraft that Buckley brings to the screen, in both a fragile and powerful manner. By contrast, Walters is the opposition to the free country spirit that Rose-Lynn seeks, all working class control and decorum. A standard role, but one the veteran actor brings nuance to, adding a degree of shade in her reading of the lines, and the catch in her voice. Rounding out the collection is Sophie Okonedo as Rose-Lyn’s employer, benefactor and perhaps a friend. Again, what should be a pretty standardised character of someone isolated by class and privilege, is lifted up by the nuance and thought placed into the performance, as Okonedo’s subtle expressions convey a wealth of longing and loss.

Which is really the foundation of Wild Rose. It’s a simple and familiar tale, but it becomes something new by its setting and the wondrous voice of Buckley, who truly marks herself as a talent to be reckoned with. Wild Rose says something both about the world’s obsession with American culture, but also about the ways that we make it our own.