What’s the first thing you think of when you think of Scotland? Kilts? Rugby? Deep fried everything? It’s probably some, or all of those, but I bet it isn’t Country music? But why not? After seeing Wild Rose, you may be thinking twice.
Rose-Lynn Harlan, Jessie Buckley (“Beast“, “Taboo (TV)”), is a wild child. As we meet her she’s just getting out of prison, finishing her 12-month stretch for throwing a bag of heroine over the wall of a prison.
She heads, not home, but rather to her boyfriends for an hilarious introduction that feels straight out of the Blues Brothers, or Twin Town.
Then she heads home, to the family home at least, where we meet mother, Marion, Julie Walters (“Paddington 2“, “Harry Potter”), and Harlan’s two young children whom grandmother has been looking after.
Marion expects Harlan to pull her socks up, get a job, look after her children and put them first. But that isn’t Harlan’s dream, for Harlan wants to go straight back to her job at the Grand Ole Opry, that’s, Glasgow’s Grand Ole Opry.
But Harlan’s fiery temper soon puts paid to that idea but never to her grand plan of getting enough money together to go to Nashville and become a Country Music star.
But reality bites and eventually Harlan begins cleaning at a massive house, home to Susannah, Sophie Okonedo (“After Earth”, “Hotel Rwanda”), and her husband and two children. It’s the children who first hear Harlan sing and tell mum.
Susannah decides to make Harlan her project, pulling some strings to get her in front of BBC Country Music legend Bob Harris, as well as arranging a gig to try and raise the money for Nashville.
But Harlan hasn’t been truthful to Susannah, she hasn’t even told her about her children, and it eats up at her, finally spilling out on performance day.
Wild Rose is a rollercoaster of an emotional journey. Writer Nicole Taylor (“Three Girls (TV)”, “The C Word (TV)”) said afterwards that the script had been some ten years in the making for her, born from her lifelong obsession with country music.
Whilst the film had been circled a few times by varying directors, things never got off the ground, a large part of which was the struggle to find a lead actor who could perform the songs so well.
It wasn’t until Tom Harper (“War & Peace (TV)”, “Peaky Blinders (TV)”) became involved that he instantly knew it had to be Buckley as the lead.
This was a stunning piece of casting as Buckley not only has a voice to die for but she turns in a fabulous performance, as does Walters opposite her.
The two pop and zing off the screen, causing plenty of laughs, but it’s the emotional aspects of the film that will really get you. One minute you could be foot-stomping along to a song, or laughing away, and the next you’ll be in tears as the emotion is cranked to 11.
All of this is shot exquisitely by Harper. He makes the film shine in all the right places and feel claustrophobic and dirty when it needs too. The cleaning scene, when he inserts band members as Buckley walks through the house listening to music on her headphones and singing along, is just brilliant.
Wild Rose is a wonderful, wonderful film, packed with fabulous performances and superbly directed. It will hit you like a sucker-punch with its emotion, but fly’s high with laughs and music too. And as for that voice, Buckley nails it.