TIFF 2018: Wild Rose

Jessie Buckley in Wild Rose. Courtesy of TIFF.

Serving as a love letter to Glasgow, Wild Rose shows how far one woman will go if it means becoming a star in Music City.

Rose-Lynn Harlan wants (Jessie Buckley) to hit the big time as a country singer but there’s one minor problem–she lives in Scotland.  This isn’t to say that pursuing her dreams will be easy because it won’t.  Her own economic situation, let alone a drug-addiction past that put her in jail, won’t be of any help in finding employment.

While Rose-Lynn wants to be in Nashville, her mother, Marion (Julie Walters), would rather she focus on her children upon coming home.  This isn’t really a bad idea after being in jail for a year.  After all, her family life is not all that great.

Enter the wealthy Susannah (Sophie Okenedo).  The wealthy woman hires Rose-Lynn to clean her house.  She looks at this opportunity as being her ticket out of town.  On a chance encounter, Susannah hears her sing an decides to help make her dreams come true.  This doesn’t only include a BBC Radio connection but also throwing a fundraiser in her back yard.

Where Susannah is able to see the musical spark in Rose-Lynn, Marion would rather the whole dream just die.  Music is life for Rose-Lynn so Marion gives her daughter enough money to visit Nashville.  No matter what happens beyond the trip to Nashville, Rose-Lynn needs the trip more than anything to help figure out just who exactly she is.

Nicole Taylor has written a beautiful screenplay that shows a love of country music.  When you get to the core of it, the music-centered script is a coming-of-age story with a mother-and-daughter relationship at the heart of it.  By the end of the film, we see how this young woman from Glasgow has grown up.

Jessie Buckley delivers a star-making performance.  It’s no wonder that the film was highly buzzed about in Toronto.  This was the first of four music-centered films I watched at the fest and they all have their own special things.  The idea of a Scottish woman wanting to make it big as a country singer reads like a fish-out-of-water story.  Yet this film truly works because she’s an underdog.  It’s because of this status that we find ourselves connecting with the performance let alone enjoying the music.

Compared to her roles in Paddington and Mamma Mia!, Julie Walters’ pulls back in her performance.  If you had told me that Marion, Mrs. Bird, and Rosie were played by the same woman, I would have said no.  This is a testament to Walters’ acting abilities.  Walters’ work feels more grounded in this film compared with the other performances.

While I enjoyed Wild Rose for the most part, I had one minor problem with some dialogue.  It comes when Rose-Lynn is speaking to BBC Radio’s Bob Harris.  She compares her situation to that of a transgender person.  I’m sorry but no.  You can’t just compare the two because it’s honestly apples and oranges.  Just because Rose-Lynn was born in Scotland and would rather have been born in America does not mean she gets to use such language.  Understandably, it’s expensive to move overseas but I do not wish being transgender on anyone!  I don’t want to call say her comments are transphobic because they aren’t.  I do believe that it’s an insensitive comment to say the least.

Dreams may seem like they’re impossible in Wild Rose but if there’s a message to take away, it ought to be that one can’t just give up without trying at least once.

DIRECTOR:  Tom Harper
SCREENWRITER:  Nicole Taylor
CAST:  Jessie Buckley, Julie Walters, Sophie Okenedo, Jamie Sives, Craig Parkinson, James Harkness, Janey Godley

Wild Rose held its world premiere during the 2018 Toronto International Film Festival in the Special Presentations program.  Neon acquired the US rights.

Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.

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