When hot-headed young singer Rose-Lynn Harlan (Jessie Buckley) is released from prison, she reluctantly returns to her mother’s house to be reunited with her two young children. Nursing a grudge against the world and a burning ambition to make it as a country singer, she struggles to reconcile her dreams with her reality.
It’s a brave move for the film to lean so heavily on the talents of up-and-coming star Jessie Buckley, even if she’s often playing against the rock-steady safety of Julie Walters as her long-suffering mum, but it pays off. Rose-Lynn is a thoroughly unlikable character when we meet her: selfish, dishonest, neglectful of all in pursuit of her dream but gradually Buckley teases out the humanity and sympathy in her troubled nature until you can’t help but root for her to make the right choices for the first time in her life.
It’s very much a film of two halves, with director Tom Harper seemingly springing to life as Rose-Lynn’s dream starts to come within her grasp. Prior to this point, the film feels competently but basically shot and feels far more like a grounded television drama than something cinematic but as the pseudo-Cinderella story unfolds thanks to the slightly improbable pseudo-fairy godmotherness of Sophie Okenado’s character (a role that’s written and rendered in primary colours compared to the layered complexity of Buckley herself) the film sparkles into vivid, vivacious life. In fact, many of the supporting characters are fairly two dimensional but such is the intoxicating nature of Buckley’s screen presence that you won’t really mind.
Musically, the genre is irrelevant because the performances are off-the-charts good, with Buckley’s voice, in particular, showing the real power of a music style oft dismissed as ‘three chords and the truth’. Emotional, uplifting and – while it flirts with fantasy – rewardingly grounded in a more realistic ending, “Wild Rose” isn’t a film you necessarily need to see on the big screen but it’s a film that’s well worth seeing.