Buckley blooms in ‘Wild Rose’
Directed by: Tom Harper
Written by: Nicole Taylor
Starring: Jessie Buckley, Sophie Okonedo, Julie Walters, Daisy Littlefield, and Adam Mitchell
“Wild Rose” – “Whosever heard of a country singer from Glasgow?” – Rose-Lynn Harlan (Jessie Buckley)
Rose-Lynn loves country music! It’s sewn into the fabric of her being and also into her white leather jacket (with tassels) and accompanying white cowboy boots. When she’s not performing onstage at the Glasgow Grand Opry, she listens to this particular music genre - born in the southern United States sometime during the early 20th century – on the bus or at the Inness House where she vacuums and dusts from 9 to 5 as a cleaning lady. Rose-Lynn refers to country as three chords and the truth, and she firmly stands by that claim, because those words are tattooed on her right forearm.
Her conflicted truth is that she desperately wants to travel to Nashville and make it as a singer, however, she’s saddled with responsibilities in her Priesthill working-class neighborhood. You see, Rose-Lynn has two young children, Lyle (Adam Mitchell) and Wynonna (Daisy Littlefield), who desperately need – and compete for - her attention, so dropping her life in Scotland and leaving for the United States carries all the practicality of skydiving while attempting to solve differential equations on a spiral notebook. Should one attempt this dual-pursuit? Sure, but probably not without messy consequences.
Director Tom Harper, writer Nicole Taylor and Buckley passionately shepherd Rose-Lynn through her conflicted struggle, as she desperately craves to fly towards her dreams but is grounded from leaving the nest. She’s stuck, in a somewhat-similar fashion as Guy (Glen Hansard) from the indie Irish musical “Once” (2007), except he stunted his musical career through self-doubt, anxiety and ongoing acceptance of meager creature comforts. Certainly, Rose-Lynn has insecurities and does not possess the wherewithal to locate open doors towards a more promising future, but make no mistake, her aspiration-barriers – in the form of her truly lovely kids – are physically real.
Taylor’s adoration for country music is wholly genuine, as she notes in a 2018 interview, “I’m a lifelong country music fan. It’s been my obsession, since I was 12 years old.”
She adds, “You get two and a half minutes of catharsis in every country song, and for people who are not used to articulating how they feel, it’s the best.”
Meanwhile, Buckley delivers the best lead female performance of the year (so far) as Rose-Lynn. This redheaded Irish actress served a masterful turn as an unsettled young woman in the slow-burning thriller “Beast” (2017), and here, Buckley offers a duality to Rose-Lynn, but with designed palatability.
Harper and Buckley – from the get-go – establish Rose-Lynn’s coarse outer shell, as she frequently curses, is willing to come to blows and overlooks her responsibilities while throwing down drinks at local pubs. Rose-Lynn is a cluttered handful, however, when she sets aside her daily realities and sings, her worries disappear into toe-tapping rockabilly-thunder and misty blisses of gentle harmonies that ask for our notice, and we enthusiastically and freely bequeath.
To put it simply, Buckley is magic, and her tender ballads like “Peace in This House” and “Glasgow” are the most enchanting. Buckley and Taylor wrote some tracks like “Cigarette Row” and “Covered in Regret”, but actress Mary Steenburgen – of all people – co-wrote “Glasgow”.
During a June 2019 interview with Stephen Colbert, Buckley said, “(Mary Steenburgen) is amazing. I mean, how much talent can one person have?”
After experiencing “Wild Rose”, you will undoubtedly ask yourself that same question about Jessie Buckley.
Jeff – a member of the Phoenix Critics Circle – has penned film reviews since 2008, graduated from ASU’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and is a certified Rotten Tomatoes critic. Follow Jeff and the Phoenix Film Festival on Twitter @MitchFilmCritic and @PhoenixFilmFest, respectively.