In the era-defining Trainspotting, Ewan McGregor’s Renton exclaims “It’s shit being Scottish.” As a fellow Scotsman, raised in England, this writer can confirm that it is indeed shit being Scottish. Still, this derogatory attitude towards one’s nationality pervades in a less explicit manner in Tom Harper’s third feature, Wild Rose.
Written by Nicole Taylor, who has penned scripts for the BBC on shows from Ashes to Ashes to Three Girls, the film stars the radiant Jessie Buckley as a Glaswegian working-class single mother who dreams of making it big in country music by getting to Nashville. Opening as Buckley’s Rose-Lynn Harlan is being released from a woman’s prison, her outfit, alongside the twanging country soundtrack, instantly foregrounds the character’s obsession for the musical genre. White boots particularly draw one’s eye to this fact. Instantly, Buckley’s gleaming performances bursts from the screen to enchant.
Loud, impulsive and passionate, she decides to stop off at a country club before heading home to her two children and mother Marion (Julie Walters). Her defiant belief in her ability to make it to Nashville leads her astray from her family in moments. Dusting herself down and securing a job as a clearer for the awfully middle-class Susannah (Sophie Okonedo), Rose leads a double life; one caring for her family when she can and the other caring for Susannah’s home. Life looks on the up when her boss manages to get her in contact with someone on the BBC Radio 2 Country. Still, the tender pull between Rose’s two worlds essential causes symbiotic destruction and sacrifice to one another.
Central to the success of the film is Buckley’s chemistry with both Walter and Okonedo. Though some plot points feel contrived, particularly scenes in London where Rose visits the BBC, the essence of Harper’s film passes The Bechdel Test with flying colours. Not just a box-ticking exercise towards Bechdel, Wild Rose is earnestly sincere on the notion of achieving one’s dreams. Walter’s stern matriarchal figure juxtaposes the soft nature of Okonedo’s character. It has to be said however that Susannah’s eventual plan to raise money for Rose’s trip to Nashville, through equally rich friends, feels as though it’s an attempted liberating outcry for the script to cross socioeconomical bridges between classes in Scotland.
Away from the script, the songs of Jack Arnold prove vitality remedy to any soppy plot devices. Flowing seamlessly through Rose, these songs reflect her inner emotions in moments. The fierce passion from the performer, Buckley, creates tangible electricity. The complete antithesis to her turn in Beast, the actor is effortlessly chameleonic. Thankfully too, her Glaswegian accent holds upright throughout and is a direct result of month’s preparing for the role whilst walking around the city. Muting the songs comes George Steels rudimentary cinematography, in relation to expressive songs and performances on-screen.
Blossoming right before our eyes through this latest work, Jessie Buckley is a genuine star who’s dexterous performances only hints at more to come. In the case of its director, writer and crew, their extensive work in TV translate in delivering a feel-good narrative that serves the whole family, not overstepping its mark. Wild Rose fits the bill for a British indie, yet apart from Buckley’s radiance it sadly does not offer anything more or less. Comparable to Lady Macbeth and Florence Pugh’s break out performance, this really does feel like the moment the world stands up and recognises Buckley’s talents.