Jessie Buckley’s performance is the main takeaway from Wild Rose, to the extent that the rest of the movie isn’t particularly surprising. It’s another story of a tortured female rock-star that plays into the “dreams or family” conflict with a resolution that allows her to achieve both in a satisfying way.
Buckley stars and sings as Rose-Lynn Harlan, a club singer in Glasgow, Scotland, who loves country music and aspires to sing at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville. Her life is a bit of a mess, though. We meet her at the tail-end of a prison sentence for running drugs. She has two children who mostly live with her disappointed mother, Marion (Julie Walters). Rose had them when she was young and wild enough to never focus on them as much as she should have. And she’s still too young for that. Because the music is what moves her, and Nashville is calling.
Buckley’s so great in Wild Rose, as she was in her grand cinematic debut last year, Beast. This time she gets to sing, and sing she does: As the movie’s plot waxes and wanes between the required beats, it absolutely lives on her voice. She moves from a Scottish accent to the American country twang effortlessly. Her character work otherwise makes sure the story never falls into a complete doldrum or, worse yet, paints Rose as the “villain” of her own story because she’s neglecting her children. Her behavior is certainly selfish and awful, but she’s always at least somewhat empathetic.
Dreams, dreams. Within the last six months or so, two other films have highlighted similar women characters, Her Smell and Vox Lux. Both are more aesthetically extreme than Wild Rose, and both feature women whose fame takes them much farther and whose fall takes them far lower. I quite enjoyed all three of them, but Rose is the most approachable, the kindest to its audience and characters alike. There’s nothing here that is particularly hard-hitting, and the emotional revelations come precisely when you want them. Its sister movies push the envelope, but Rose will leave you in a pleasant mood — and entice you with a truly spectacular soundtrack you can listen to for days afterwards.