It is an irritating fact of life that people who are very talented at one thing tend to be talented at everything they do. Jessie Buckley is one of those people. Plucked from obscurity as a teenager in Ireland, she found herself on a talent show performing musical theatre for Andrew Lloyd-Webber. Within a few years she had done Sondheim in the West End, War and Peace for the BBC, Shakespeare at The Globe and, in Taboo, stolen all her scenes with Tom Hardy. Now, with Wild Rose, Buckley not only acts and sings, she reveals she can also do comedy. And a convincing Glasgow accent.
Wild Rose is a classic rags-to-slightly-better-rags story. Our heroine, Rose Lynn Harlan, is a rough diamond; fresh out of prison and ready to have fun, despite the tag on her ankle. She dreams of becoming a country singer, but is held back by her responsibilities (and a court-ordered curfew). She has two fatherless kids she barely knows, raised by their grandmother (played straight by Julie Walters, another irritatingly multi-talented performer). Reasonably, she expects Rose Lynn to take on the responsibility of raising her own children. Rose Lynn grudgingly takes on a cleaning job in a well-to-do area of Glasgow, a world away from her housing scheme flat. Her new employer is intrigued, and perhaps jealous, of Rose Lynn’s free spirit and, decides to help her achieve her dream – to sing in Nashville.
There follows a sequence of unlikely events that would sink into cliché were it not for Jessie Buckley’s performance. She attacks the part with relish; Rose Lynn shouts, swears, shags and scraps like a Scotstoun docker, but Buckley gives her just enough vulnerability for us to love her, and the charisma to make us believe her as a performer. Because Rose Lynn, like Buckley herself, is no wannabe with a shot at the big time. No, Wild Rose really can sing. In the best scene of the movie, Rose Lynn does an audition for a London big shot, via a Skype call. The song is sung live in a single unbroken shot. It’s a brilliant decision by Director Tom Harper, making it clear that both the character and the actor are ‘the real deal’.
Wild Rose was completed in 2018 so one can only assume the delayed release is an attempt to avoid comparisons with the similarly themed but much bigger budgeted A Star Is Born. It’s unlikely that Wild Rose will do as well at the box office but it has the same mix of social commentary and comedy that made Billy Elliot so charming and Jessie Buckley’s performance is certainly as good as Lady Gaga’s Oscar-nominated turn. Gaga’s character may have reached greater fame, but she never played Glasgow’s Grand Ole Opry. By the end of the film, Rose Lynn has learnt a valuable lesson. It’s somewhat predictable, but rewarding and moving nonetheless.
Wild Rose is out on general release in the UK now.