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Wild Rose: a star is torn

Jessie Buckley plays aspiring country singer in film many critics are calling this year’s answer to smash-hit Lady Gaga film

11 April, 2019 — By Dan Carrier

Jessie Buckley as aspiring singer Rose-Lynn in Wild Rose

WILD ROSE
Directed by Tom Harper
Certificate 15
☆☆☆☆

THREE chords and the truth: that is the essence of country music, according to the tattoo emblazoned along the arm of Rose-Lynn (Jessie Buckley), an aspiring singer who has bundles of talent but – as surely all good country singers should have – a complicated personal story with some hurdles to overcome.

We meet her – in a brilliant peace of scene-setting – as she serves her last day in a prison in Stirling, and heads home to her mother’s house where her two young children have been staying.

Rose-Lyn is a massive talent, and has been singing at Glasgow’s Grand Old Opry – a country club in the heart of the city – since she was 14. She is consumed by the genre, often to the detriment of being a mother.

When she is helped get a job as a cleaner in the posh suburban home of Susannah (Sophie Okonedo), opportunities emerge: Susannah hears Rose-Lynn sing, and she stops being merely her drudge and you feel decides to make this pretty, talented, working-class person her pet project – something to ease her middle-class guilt. It is a brilliant study of character.

Director Tom Harper has created a picture of a city of contrasts – the warmth of the people against the stark surroundings. And the portrayal of a country scene in Glasgow feels right. The appeal of country might pass you by, but you can’t help but be moved by the legend tattooed across our heroine’s arm and her vocals are enough to stir anyone, no matter what your musical preference.

Julie Walters as Rose-Lyn’s mother shows she can no doubt play these roles with her eyes shut – yet she doesn’t go through the motions. Hers is also a performance with power, wit, meaning and above all, love. She creates a very real sense of what it means to be a mother and grandmother – and she does a terrific Glaswegian accent.

It is an interesting aside to note that the link between Celtic music culture and that of the American South is closer than you may at first realise – but it becomes apparent when the band takes to the stage.

Scottish and Irish émigrés – many forced through white slavery – settled in the South and their influence was poured in to the American music melting pot. For example, the world of tap comes from the Southern states, but also has strong roots in Ireland.

Hearing this music, with its acoustic guitars, fiddles, banjoes, mandolins, pipes and double basses shows quite how close the two styles actually are. It makes this woman’s dream all the more believable.

Critics are calling it this year’s answer to the Lady Gaga smash-hit film, A Star Is Born – but such comparisons are lazy: Wild Rose is a far superior film, with a bigger heart, a lot less cheese, vastly superior music and 100 per cent more likeable characters.

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