Review: WILD ROSE Will Sing Its Way Into Your Heart

wild rose singing
Rose-Lynn Harlan (Jessie Buckley) in WILD ROSE. Courtesy of NEON.

Wild Rose, directed by Tom Harper (War & Peace), is a country musical that perfectly captures the story of an aspiring musician. Starring Jessie Buckley (Chernobyl), the film tells the story of a recently-released ex-convict and single mother from Glasgow, Scotland who dreams of moving to Nashville to pursue a career as a country music singer.

The core of the story is a relatively standard rags-to-riches tale, but with a very honest perspective and viewpoint on the world. This movie doesn’t sugar coat the experience like most other films will. The movie shows the uplifting fantasy world in which Rose gets caught, but it is also easy for us as the audience to see through that and understand that the real world still exists. The point of the film is not to discourage aspiration, though — it is simply to show that achieving your dreams will not be easy.

Some of the scenes in which the movie slips into full fantasy-mode are brilliant. For example, there is one scene in which the protagonist is singing while vacuuming, oblivious to what is happening around her, and there is an imaginary band playing behind her. The film is at its best when it is ambitious like this, with creative and fun shooting techniques.

The protagonist, Rose-Lynn, is an extremely complex and compelling character. Some of the things she does, particularly in relation to her children, are not likable at all, but they present her to us as a broken and desperate person who has been through a lot of pain and suffering. As such, we as the audience approach her story with a sort of pity. Although that can be a tricky line to ride, this movie handles it gracefully, using it to make the protagonist more sympathetic.

wild rose ryman
Rose-Lynn Harlan (Jessie Buckley) at the Ryman. Courtesy of NEON.

Buckley is absolutely phenomenal in her leading role. She really is on a roll right now, having impressed in Beast and Chernobyl and now delivering her best turn yet in this. Her singing voice is excellent, making her a perfect fit for the musical numbers, but her emotional range allows her to be equally great in the dramatic portions of the film. It is hard to imagine anyone else in the role because Buckley is so great.

One of the central themes of the movie is the idea of responsibility and the balance one must have between their responsibilities and their ambitions. The most interesting arc of the film is not Rose-Lynn’s quest to go to Nashville, but rather, her journey of finding a way to accommodate that quest within the context of her family and work life.

This movie has a relatively brisk runtime, clocking in at only an hour and forty minutes, and it moves along rather quickly. The film is in no way meant to make you feel warm and fuzzy, but it also isn’t particularly tough to watch. A big part of why the movie moves along is that the country music that is such a big part of the story and characters brightens up the tone, which may have been otherwise dragged down by the dark subject matter.

Wild Rose is a compelling film that benefits from great character development and phenomenal performances. Even if you aren’t a fan of country music, this is worth checking out, because you will have fun with it regardless.

Wild Rose hits theaters on June 21.

By Sean Boelman

Sean is a film student, aspiring filmmaker, and life-long cinephile. For as long as he can remember, he has always loved film, but he credits the film Pan's Labyrinth as having started his love of film as art. Sean enjoys watching many types of films, although some personal favorite genres include dramatic comedies, romantic comedies, heist films, and art horror.

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