As an antidote to cinematic violence and nightmares of history, “Wild Rose” is an empathetic story about a Scottish single mom wanting to make music. Directed by Tom Harper (TV’s “Peaky Blinders”), the story is most compelling in regard to its star Jessie Buckley and its rousing music.
Rose-Lynn (Buckley) is a mom imprisoned for a heroin conviction. She served nearly 12 months. Despite her prison time, she is spunky and irreverent but refreshingly not bitter.
Her mom (Julie Walters) does not know what to do with her. Rose-Lynn attempts to get her job back at a country bar but they refuse her and she goes into a rage. Despite this setback, she makes an impression on the parole office and the authorities grant her custody but the kids prefer their grandmother. Rose-Lynn takes a job as a maid to a wealthy woman Susannah (Sophie Okonedo). Susannah’s children love Rose-Lynn as she dances and gyrates wildly acting very much like a kid.
Rose-Lynn loves her own children deeply, but the daily grind weighs her down and she can’t stop thinking about trying to get to Memphis and see the Grand Ole Opry.
On day, Susannah is struck by Rose-Lynn’s singing voice and she offers the stifled musician a job singing at her party. Rose Lynn is thrilled, but then doubt and self-hatred strikes.
This is an understated and slow paced film, but the energy of Buckley, childlike and unconcerned with convention, elevates the film’s somewhat plodding mainstream narrative.
There are some colorful scenes around Memphis. Rose-Lynn is akin to Rocky and Cinderella. Few believe her. Rose-Lynn has no money, but she must get to Memphis. There are cameos by Kacey Musgraves and Ashley McBryde. The film features music from Wynonna Judd, Emmylou Harris, John Prine, and Chris Stapleton, among others.
Buckley’s voice sneaks up on you as a true vocal surprise. Seeming to come from the outer reaches of space, her voice is the perfect fit for this underdog story.
Despite its melodramatic finale and a pacing far from brisk, the charisma of Jessie Buckley makes “Wild Rose” an almost meditative yet quirky counterpoint to other sensational films far too jarring, aggressive and downbeat.
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