‘Wild Rose’ review – Jessie Buckley blossoms in winning British comedy-drama

Wild Rose‘s combination of country music, big dreams and a star turn from a once-in-a-generation young talent has resulted in one of the best British films in years, says Simon Brew

Multiplexes are hardly bursting with films that have tried to blend Glasgow, the story of a woman trying to turn her life around, and a healthy dose of country music. But maybe they’ve been missing a trick on the basis of Wild Rose, a must-see feature starring one of Britain’s brightest rising star screen talents Jessie Buckley.

The film is from the brain of writer Nicole Taylor (who’s achieved considerable acclaim on the small screen, most notably for Three Girls), and she sets up a story that’s centred around three women. At the heart there’s Rose-Lynn, played by Buckley, who we meet as she’s released from prison.

She’s the mother of two young children, a young woman desperate to follow her heart, yearning to go to Nashville and be a country singer. But she’s torn: she wants to be there for her kids, too, but the two wishes never conveniently work in parallel. Rose-Lynn’s own mother, Marion, is played by Julie Walters, and she’s lived and is living a more conventional life of doing what she’s supposed to do, rather than necessarily what she wants. She’s the effective carer of Rose-Lynn’s children when we meet her, and wants her daughter to turn her life around and, well, grow up. But she’s conflicted too: why should Rose-Lynn compromise her dreams, when she had to do the same thing? It certainly keeps her pondering over the counter at Greggs.

In the mix too is Susannah, played by Sophie Okonedo. Susannah is a wealthy woman who hires Rose-Lynn to clean her home for her. In doing so, after Rose-Lynn has helped herself to the booze, the pair form an unlikely bond, where they might just end up helping each other out.

They’re each struggling, each likeable, each easy to watch and declare you wouldn’t follow the same path

What’s hugely impressive about Taylor’s script and Tom Harper’s direction, then, is that they present each of these three women with interesting life choices, fleshing out the character of them so that it’s entirely understandable should they take different options to the ones they ultimately do. They’re each struggling, each likeable, each easy to watch and declare you wouldn’t follow the same path. And as a consequence, they’re all real.

Each is a key ingredient too in what amounts to a British film that’s going to take some beating this year. A very human coming together of drama and comedy, it’s then further lifted by what should be the performance to launch Jessie Buckley into the stratosphere. Buckley, who was in her teens when she finished runner-up in a BBC talent contest to find a star for Oliver! on stage, is already beginning to feel like a once-in-a-generation talent. Her singing is extraordinary, but it’s her work bringing a rough-about-the-edges, not always likeable character to life that eclipses even her stunning turn in 2017’s Beast.

It’s some film, this. Welcoming and accessible – I can’t help but think that had it arrived 20 years previously, in the midst of The Full Monty and Billy Elliot, it’d be loudly lauded already – it’s a rare combination. A winning night out at the movies, and a film nestling with questions and conundrums for its characters that keep it churning long after Rose-Lynn has sung her last song (leaving you with a mental note to buy the soundtrack). It’s a big British audience film, with one hell of a heart and one hell of a brain.

★★★★★