Telling the story of a Scotland-based singer who dreams of making it as a Nashville country music star, "Wild Rose" is touching, toe-tapping musical dramedy anchored by a dynamite performance from star Jessie Buckley.
As the film opens, 20-something Rose-Lynn (Buckley) is just getting released after a 12-month stint in prison. Despite the setback, she hasn't given up on her dream of finding fame and fortune, hoping to someday grace the stage of the Grand Ole Opry. Her disapproving mother (played with tough love by the great Julie Walters) worries that Rose-Lynn is putting all her hopes in a pipe dream. As she cautions, "there's no shortage of folk who can sing." And she knows how much Rose-Lynn's needed by her two young children, who've been without their mother so long they don't know what to make of her. But then she's not exactly used to them either.
A young woman who only feels entirely herself when she's singing, Rose-Lynn tries to be pragmatic but the siren song of country music calls to her. She has a gift, and it's only further proven each time Buckley opens her mouth to perform one of several songs featured throughout the film. Rose-Lynn knows precisely who she is onstage, but off is another case entirely, and much of the story's drama comes from whether she can find the maturity needed to truly make something of herself.
She gets a job cleaning the home of posh power mom Susannah (Sophie Okonedo), who takes an interest in Rose-Lynn's music and burgeoning career after hearing her children rave about their cleaning lady's incredible voice. As Rose-Lynn gains the encouragement she needs, she has to find a way to balance the pursuit of her dream while committing to her children and making them a focus in a way they've clearly never been before.
It's not an unfamiliar narrative, but "Wild Rose" is one of those movies that's less what it's about than how it's about it. And director Tom Harper and writer Nicole Taylor tell their story with charm and authenticity for the daily rhythms of working class Glasgow life.
It helps that at the film's center is the boisterous, raw, and all-around wonderful performance from Buckley, an Irish actress who was such a ferocious presence in last year's romantic-thriller "Beast." Her work here is equally fierce, but with an immensely sympathetic vulnerability.
It's hard not to root for Rose-Lynn's success, even as she makes one wrong decision after another. Buckley makes her such a charismatic force of nature, that -- both on screen and off -- it's immediately clear a star has been born.