THE INCENTIVE TO follow the wild road that your dreams may offer you, regardless of your commitments or bank balance, is the stuff that ignites the passion of many a youngster. It’s also the stuff that makes the hero myth such a compelling one, for everyone. Tom Harper’s 2018 film Wild Rose, newly on Showmax, is one of these.
And this is where you meet Rose-Lynn Harlan (Jessie Buckley). She’s young, talented and full of passion for her craft. Her yen is to shine as a country singer. Couple of things stand in her way, including her prison credentials and her Glasgow domestic situation. She feels that she should be in Nashville Tennessee, sharpening her voice against those trills and twangs with the best in the biz.
Enfolding in country music references, from Harlan Howard to Dolly Parton, it’s a simple tale of believing in yourself and hoping that the rest of your emotional baggage come along for the ride too. You know how it will end. And the do-gooder employer, Susannah, played by the gorgeous Sophie Okonedo, is the one who opens the door to possibilities and hope, but also is the unwitting cipher to the earth-shattering turning point in Rose-Lynn’s self-perceptions, which enables her to see the pure fire of her self-absorbed dreams being dampened.
But Rose-Lynn’s long fringe which gives her an appearance of immense innocence and young, hides an enormous lie. There are two children in the tale who are pushed into invisibility and the arms and home of their grandmother (and occasional strangers) by Rose-Lynn’s sins, dreams and gigs. This significant nub of the story sees small but nuanced and angry performances by young performers as Wynnona (Daisy Littlefield) and Lyle (Adam Mitchell) and offers an almost crude reflection of how selfish artistic dreams of fame, fortune and glory can be.
And then there is Dame Julie Walters, in the role of Rose-Lynn’s mum. In so many ways, Walters is the understated glue of this eye-candy film. She’s tough and strict but knows the wiles and complexities of her daughter. She’s sound and balanced, but speaks of having to sell her own dreams down the river, when she was young, in the face of her responsibilities. The only thing is, she seems to be too old to feasible be Rose-Lynn’s mother.
This working-class story fits uncannily with Walters’ performance repertoire. If you think back to the working-class narratives coined by writers and directors of the ilk of Lewis Gilbert (Educating Rita), Alan Bleasdale (Jake’s Progress, GBH and others) and Stephen Daldry (Billy Elliot), Wild Rose reflects like the new generation of Walters’ characters.
There’s a Nashville moment, which any wannabe artist in Paris or opera singer in Venice would recognise. It’s a coals-to-Newcastle kind of situation and opens up new vistas for Rose-Lynn, as a human being. But there is also the lyrics and the musical performance of Buckley which simply flies and bears comparison with what Lady Gaga did to A Star is Born.
With a little bit of a love interest tossed in, literally on the grass of a public park, that’s a bit of a red herring, Rose-Lynn is all passion for her art and won’t take no for an answer from the universe, until she’s worked through the problem herself. It’s a sweet film, which showcases a beautiful sense of poetry in Buckley’s rendition.
Wild Rose (2018) is directed by Tom Harper and features a cast headed by J Thomas Bailey, Aly Bain, Jessie Buckley, Carolyn Calder, Maureen Carr, Matt Costello, Phil Cunningham, Robin Daugherty, Martin Docherty, Vanya Eadie, Kern Falconer, Maryam Hamidi, Mark Hagen, James Harkness, Bob Harris, Janey Godley, Lesley Hart, Ross Holmes, Kyle Ryan Hurlbut, Helen Katamba, Adam Keafer, Nicole Kerr, Ryan Kerr, Hillary Klug, Daisy Littlefield, Neil MacColl, Margaret MacKenzie, Aly MacRae, Andy May, Ashley McBryde, Louise McCarthy, Natalie McConnon, Natali McCleary, Gemma McElhinney, Doreen McGillivray, David McGowan, Marianne McIvor, Brian McQuade, Adam Mitchell, Sondra Morton, Kacey Musgraves, Stuart Nisbet, Ben Nicholls, Sophie Okonedo, Craig Parkinson, Jane Patterson, Scott Quintana, Carol Pyper Rafferty, Brett Resnick, Ashley Shelton, Allison Simpson, Jamie Sives, Chris Vatalaro, Julie Walters, Josh Whitelaw, Tracy Wiles, Atta Yaqub and Benny Young. Written by Nicole Taylor, it is produced by Faye Ward, and features creative input by Jack Arnold (music), George Steel (cinematography), Mark Eckersley (editing), Kahleen Crawford (casting), Lucy Spink (production design) and Anna Robbins (costumes). It is available on ShowMax.