Fresh from prison, Rose-Lynn (Jessie Buckley) has dreams of becoming a country music star. With two children to look after, she takes a job as a house cleaner and soon strikes up a friendship with Susanah (Sophie Okonedo) who kick starts events that might just help Rose achieve her dream.
Much has already been made about this film's similarity to the recent ‘A Star is Born’ and from the outside, it is clear to see how those comparisons can be drawn. But in reality, ‘Wild Rose’ is more its antithesis than a cuddly UK cousin. The film has a great kitchen sink drama feel to it. It plays a clever game with the audience where you think it is going to follow a certain hackneyed route, but then will grab that sink and bash you over the head with it. It displays a realist down-to-earth narrative that neatly sidesteps taking itself too seriously or falling into despair.
Nicole Taylor provides an incredibly tight script. Every scene works to build character and move things along, there is no fat or gristle to be found on it at all. Every character, no matter how small their role, has purpose and depth so it feels like a coherent and breathing depiction of Glasgow.
The cast is just unbelievably brilliant. It is great to see Julie Walters doing her Scottish accent with some depth rather than just shoving away marmalade-loving bears or the Banks children. Walters plays Rose’s long-suffering mother who acts as a sort of moral compass but not without faults of her own. Her character arc is one of the most satisfying. Sophie Okonedo is also fantastic and in some ways has one of the trickiest roles in the film. Okonedo’s character could easily have slipped into a sort of middle-class woman saves the working class from themselves trope but thankfully the film doesn't let that happen. Susanah is genuine in her concern and championing of Rose’s talent, even if unbeknownst to her it is counter-intuitive.
When all is said and done, it is clearly Jessie Buckley’s film and it is plain to see why she is being tipped as a rising star. She has an absolutely mesmerising screen presence and it is impossible to imagine the character being played by anyone else. If you break it down, she takes quite a simple journey of self-discovery but Buckley’s performance never lets you feel that. The conflict within the character can make her take unwise or even unlikeable decisions but she is so compelling you never lose the fondness she instils.
In the background, there is a lot of social commentary running. The lack of prominent and strong male characters makes it hit home the reality for many families on the breadline that there are no patriarchal figures in their life. At no point is it explicitly spelt out but it is just amazing to see a film of strong female characters getting on with things without being forced to endure the male gaze.
'Wild Rose' is a skilful production that manages to be heartwarming - but by virtue of genuine hardship endured and overcome by the characters - rather than mawkish sentimentality. A great script with an exceptional cast and helmed by an adept director makes this well worth your time.