Movie review: ‘Wild Rose’ takes too many convenient shortcuts in telling its musical odyssey
The newest entry in the “small, personal British film featuring a complicated character” genre takes place in current-day Glasgow, where single mom Rose-Lynn (Jessie Buckley) has just finished a year-long prison sentence for assisting in drug dealing. She’s on her way home to be with her two young kids and her mum, Marion (Julie Walters), who’s been taking care of them. But Rose-Lynn doesn’t seem to have family concerns on her mind. She’s only thinking about her long-gestating dream of going to Nashville to become a country music star.
But her time away has put a spanner in the works. The country music bar she used to sing at - Glasgow’s Grand Ole Opry - has replaced her with someone else, who brazenly tells her, “Nobody wants to see a convicted criminal up there.” On top of that, she’s been ordered to wear an ankle bracelet that keeps her at home between 7 p.m. and 7 a.m. - a situation that can hinder a budding singing career.
And though it seems to be of less importance to her, there is her family to deal with. Marion isn’t very interested in her daughter’s return, and can’t help showing frustration regarding Rose-Lynn’s singlemindedness to be a singer. It’s like a “here we go again” kind of thing. Rose-Lynn’s young son Lyle doesn’t really know what’s going on, and is content to be under grandma’s care, and his big sister Wynona is mostly silent and disapproving around her mom. In Rose-Lynn’s mind, family translates as an inconvenience that isn’t being sympathetic toward her.
But the script, by TV writer Nicole Taylor, tends to just keep moving forward, presenting situations - often repeating them - then tying them up quickly, without developing them enough.
That said, a strong plot turn does begin to develop. Needing a job, because she does still have to pay rent and raise her kids, Rose-Lynn finds a cleaning position in the home of a well-to-do family, working for Susanna (Sophie Okonedo).
Some solace is found there, as she can do the job well, without thinking about it much, usually wearing headphones as she vacuums the floors, grooving on her beloved country music. A nice visual touch is added to the film when Rose-Lynn helps herself to some refreshment from Susanna’s bar, bursts into song, and imagines that a honkytonk full of musicians is with her in the house as she cleans.
Truth be told, some of the best parts of the film are when Jessie Buckley is belting out those tunes. She’s as much a singer as she is an actress, and her vocal work here is quite thrilling. Fortunately, her acting is just as strong, as is that of pretty much everyone (well, except for the kids playing her kids) around her.
But solid acting deserves a better script. Things turn kind of formulaic when Rose-Lynn’s irresponsibility as a mom arises. She stops for a drink on the way home from work, forgets to pick up dinner - as was promised - for her kids, and is lectured - yet again - by Marion. She’s also revealed to be a teller of white lies, oddly telling Susanna that she’d someday like to have kids, when she has two of them waiting at home. That irresponsibility gets more out of control when, with the promise of a chance at singing comes her way, she jumps into rehearsal mode, regularly asking friends to watch the kids while she’s away cultivating those personal dreams again.
It’s Nashville on the mind, all the time, and some breaks do come her way. Then, again reverting to formula, things go wrong, then, miraculously, they get better. Other characters begin revealing that they, too, once had dreams they had to give up. But that doesn’t stop Rose-Lynn, who keeps charging ahead, fueled by impulses rather than any careful thinking or planning.
One of her dreams does come true: She makes it to Nashville, though the circumstances that make that happen occur too easily. What takes place there is thankfully cliché-free, and stands as a nice piece of writing. Unfortunately, the tacked-on “one year later” happy ending comes too quickly and conveniently. It doesn’t ring true.
Ed Symkus writes about movies for More Content Now. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Written by Nicole Taylor; directed by Tom Harper
With Jessie Buckley, Julie Walters, Sophie Okonedo