Directed by Tom Harper, ‘Wild Rose’ is a musical drama that tells the story of a Scottish ex-con with Nashville country singer aspirations. While it doesn’t add much new to the genre, and does feel like a Scottish reworking of ‘A Star is Born’, it’s still a wonderfully uplifting and enjoyable affair.
By a ‘country’ mile, Jessie Buckley is the standout of this film. Playing Rose-Lynn Harlan, her performance is stunning. She has a complex relationship with her mother and children following several convictions, and these are effectively portrayed with beautiful understatement. Her voice is also amazing, and this is unsurprising considering her musical theatre background (she came second in the BBC talent show ‘I’d Do Anything’).
The rest of the cast includes Julie Walters, who brings her usual scene stealing talent playing Rose’s mum, Sophie Okonedo as a rich friend who helps Rose achieve her dreams, and an entertaining cameo role from “Whispering” Bob Harris. Though the cast do a great job with what they’re given, all of them bar Walters fail to burst through the shine of Buckley’s star.
The drama takes us on Rose’s journey as she tries to make it to Nashville and realise her dream of becoming a country singer. The narrative hits a lot of the cliché beats, including the lucky break and the hardship of having to choose between her family or her dreams. While it’s the danger of the territory, it did feel a shame that the film was so cliché. However, the film was able to overcome this by having a compelling lead, and by using soft humour to cover the areas where story lacked the most.
The songs are a mix of original songs and covers by existing country singers. Similar to ‘A Star is Born’, all the songs are performed in an appropriate context, making it a naturalistic musical as opposed to one where the action stops for four minutes while a dance number takes place. The cinematography is also very similar to A Star is Born, using naturalistic light flares and shadows to create a believable setting.
Overall, it’s a thoroughly enjoyable film, if a little lacking in originality. It’s predictable and does hit a lot of the same cliché story beats that most of these films hit, but Jessie Buckley’s performance renders that almost utterly null. After a few fantastic performances in British TV dramas and the acclaimed ‘Beast’, this film has cemented the fact that she is a total star, and hopefully will catapult her onto big things.