London Film Festival 2018 Review – Wild Rose (2018)

We’ve all dreamed a dream in time gone by, haven’t we? From our formative years, there is always something inside that spurs us on to conquer our demons and push down those obstacles to get to that dream. Some succeed, some fail, some come close, some obtain what they have been craving but, for whatever reason, discover it isn’t what they had hoped. Whatever it is or was, it is ingrained in everyone and one such journey is that of a singer desperate to find her calling in a land far, far away. Nashville, Tennessee.

Our dream hunter here is Rose-Lynn (Jessie Buckley) who we meet on her final day in jail, having spent almost year incarcerated after a dalliance with drugs. She’s not a bad person but like so many desperate to realise a dream that is just out of reach, she has made one too many bad choices in order to get there due to her stubborn streak, which has also affected the lives of her young children. Newly released, she is almost immediately drawn back to her spiritual home of Glasgow’s Grand Ole Opry, the hub for all country music in Scotland, indeed Great Britain as a whole, where she used to be its headline talent. Her jail time hasn’t gone unnoticed, however, and with her children now back living with her that longing of crossing the Atlantic on the march to Nashville soon become the stuff of dreams until her new employer (Sophie Okonedo) discovers her talents and offers a possible route back.

Buckley, ferocious in last year’s Beast, is equally so here as the steadfast, determined Rose-Lynn who, like many of us, is narrow-minded and clouded by her own deluded self-importance when it comes to the pursuit of happiness and landing our dream job. Refusing to be beat, she launches herself head first into obtaining it without thinking of the repercussions that may come with such a streak. She seems unable to conceive of a life for herself that doesn’t include performing but, unlike many, she has things that some can only imagine. We should dislike Rose for her unashamedly selfish actions that see her two young children suffer the consequences but like her, we have all been in such a predicament and more often than not, made the wrong choice so we can see much of ourselves in her and it’s testament to bravura of Buckley that we feel such things.

What’s more impressive about Wild Rose is that despite tackling some quite sombre issues, some of which are quite stark, is just how uplifting and energetic everything is. Shot in the relatively glum surroundings of Glasgow, director Tom Harper brings such a vibrancy to the film that is impossible to resist, mirroring the grey, raining moments around Rose’s dilapidated flat with lashings of colour and energy whenever we move into Nashville territory. Buckley’s voice bursts through the screen, her volume turned up to 11, while the quieter, more reflective moments, too, have great weight to them and although they don’t all quite connect, there’s still much to contemplate.

It’s a tale as old as time in many ways and where some become slightly tedious and repetitive, Wild Rose looks and feels unique. With its country soundtrack pulsating away in the background to give it a feel-good factor, it’s a dream of a film that while tackling some tough narrative themes, still enlightens and invigorates and with the magnificent Buckley are the forefront, it’s sure to have audiences coming back again and again.

Scott J.Davis |

Drama, Music | UK, 2018 | 15 | BFI London Film Festival | 19th April 2019 (UK Cinema) | eOne UK | Dir.Tom Harper | Julie Walters, Jessie Buckley, Sophie Okonedo, Daniel Campbell

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