Director: Tom Harper.
Cast: Jessie Buckley, Julie Walters, Sophie Okonedo, Jamie Sives, James Harkness, Daisy Littlefeld, Adam Mitchell.
|"Jerry was a race car driver, he drove so goddamn fast..."|
Her range, both vocally and dramatically, helps make this kitchen sink drama really sing. The story is not without its wobbly notes, but this is largely an energetic and well delivered look at how hard it can be to balance parental responsibilities with your passions.
Buckley stars as Glaswegian mother-of-two Rose-Lynn Harlan. Fresh out of jail after 12 months, she is trying to reconnect with her kids (Littlefield and Mitchell) while re-igniting her dream of being a country singer on the big stages of Nashville, Tennessee. Rose-Lynn finds a job and an enthusiastic supporter through Susannah (Okonedo), but battles with her own mother (Walters), who has looked after the kids for the past year and wants Rose-Lynn to get her life back on track.
Even if you're not a country music fan, you'll find yourself getting goosebumps when Buckley's voice soars. The musical sequences are mostly excellent, particularly her imagining a backing band while she performs a vacuum cleaner serenade, and a belter of a finale, courtesy of a song co-written by Caitlyn Smith, Kate York and actress Mary Steenburgen.
(Strange but true sidenote: Steenburgen wasn't musical until 2007 when she woke from general anaesthetic after a minor operation to find non-stop music playing in her head. “I couldn’t turn it off,” she said, so she began taking music lessons. Soon after, she had written a pile of songs and signed a record deal, despite having never had any musical inclinations for the 54 years of her life prior to the operation.)
Outside of the music, Buckley handles the dramatic and comedic extremes of her role beautifully. Rose-Lynn is a frustratingly impulsive character, and Buckley lets the love her/hate her aspects shine equally from the get-go. She brings this well written character to life with charm and swagger. A lot of credit for this also has to go screenwriter Nicole Taylor, and director Harper. While the story feels a little trite in places, it's predominantly realistic and well structured, keeping its emotions see-sawing.
The film is also buoyed by the ever-excellent Walters, who is fantastic as the put-upon grandmother desperate for her daughter to be a good mum, even at the expense of everything else. Her arc is a little compact and convenient, but the mother-daughter dynamic really helps drive the film. It's one of the interesting elements beneath the rough-and-tumble surface, along with the way Wild Rose examines how parenting, sacrifices, and goals intertwine, get tangled, and rarely become the beautiful bow you hope they will be.
As much as this is Buckley's film, it's on the back of a solid supporting cast, and nicely written screenplay, and some decent direction. Still, it's the Wild Rose herself that you'll really remember long after the last country song has finished over the credits.