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Jessie Buckley Announces Her Presence in Wild Rose

By Seth Freilich | Film | March 8, 2019 |

By Seth Freilich | Film | March 8, 2019 |


Wild Rose focuses on a young woman in Glasgow, Rose-Lynn Harlan, who wishes she had been born in Nashville because all she wants to be in life is a country music star (and don’t “take the piss” by saying “country/western. …just country”). Country music feels like a truly American brand of music and until seeing the trailer for the film, in fact, I had never really thought about whether folks outside the US listen to and perform country, but of course they do. I suspect there is a fascinating discussion to be had about how different people in different countries make country music their own, but I’m not remotely knowledgeable enough about the genre to be the one to lead that discussion. What I am capable of talking about, however, is how this film’s lead, Jessie Buckley, is a f**king star.

We first meet Rose as she’s leaving a women’s prison, and with a shot of her folding up her map of Nashville followed by a crack yelled at her on the way out (“Christ, I won’t miss that country rubbish first thing in the morning”), we know exactly who she is. What we don’t know until a few scenes later, is that she’s also a mother to two young kids, a role she clearly hasn’t taken to heart as she yells at her own mother that she wants to go to Nashville “to gig and hone my craft” because “there’s nothing for me here!” And therein lies the emotional core that runs through the film, the struggle a young mother faces between doing right by her kids while trying not to lose herself and her own dreams in the process.

As the film kicks into gear and Rose starts to settle back into her post-jail life, it becomes unclear whether we’re going to see Rose pursue her career at the expense of her kids, whether this movie will take a turn like the heinously unappreciated Sugar and see her abandon the dream completely and try to settle into a “normal” life, or whether she’ll find the way to thread the needle. I’m not going to say which way it goes because you should find out for yourself. This is writer Nicole Taylor’s first feature film (after a decade of telly writing) and, except for some moments where characters jump a little too quickly from thinking one way of things to thinking another way, it’s a strong script that does a great job threading the needle between all those possible outcomes and earns the ending it ultimately delivers.

Also, I haven’t mentioned it yet, but the great Julie Walters plays Rose’s mother. And she slays. Because she’s Julie Walters.

The rest of the cast is strong too, particularly Sophie Okonedo as Rose’s eventual boss and maybe benefactor (if you watched the excellent Wanderlust on Netflix, you’re familiar with Okonedo). But, as I mentioned above, the real star of this film isn’t the movie itself or these other performances, it’s Jessie Buckley. An Irish singer/actress, Buckley is in her element and she owns it. All of her performances throughout the film are great, and a few are downright electric. And I’m saying this as someone who isn’t a particularly big country music fan — to be clear, you definitely don’t have to love the genre to appreciate this film and Buckley’s performance. But as good as her singing is, it’s in the quiet moments of the film where she really shines. There was a beat early on, a quiet dinner scene, where in just a moment, Buckley offers this stunning bit of silent, face-and-body performance that’s just soul-crushing. I don’t know what Buckley is going to do next, but I’ll be watching (or listening).

A lot of country music is sad. I think most art comes out of poverty and hard times. It applies to music. Three chords and the truth - that’s what a country song is. There is a lot of heartache in the world.

—Willie Nelson

Wild Rose will have its US premiere at the 2019 South by Southwest Conference.

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Seth is a Senior Editor and sometime critic. You may email him here or follow him on Twitter.

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