×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Toronto Film Review: ‘Wild Rose’

As a country singer from Glasgow, Jessie Buckley gives a star-making performance in a music fable that has more than music on its mind.

Director:
Tom Harper
With:
Jessie Buckley, Julie Walters, Sophie Okonedo, Jamie Sives, Ashley Shelton, James Harkness, Gemma McElhinney, Daniel Campbell.
Release Date:
Sep 8, 2018

Official Site: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt5117428/

If someone ever decides to make a biopic about Chrissie Hynde (and by God, they should), we now have the perfect actress to play her: Jessie Buckley. The resemblance is remarkable (the sharp nose and distinctive slanted-tooth smile, the surly sparkle), and Buckley has a set of pipes that can sing just about anything. She’s also a tremendous actress, and maybe a born star. In “Wild Rose,” she plays Rose-Lynn, a brazen young ne’er-do-well from Glasgow who is fixated on going to Nashville to become a country singer. When she gets up on stage at a local pub and lets loose, time melts away (we’re in the zone of incandescent tradition that is country), and so does every trace of her Scottishness. She becomes country, and her gift is transporting. Yet Rose-Lynn is also a spectacular screw-up. “Wild Rose,” the closest thing to a sleeper I’ve seen at Toronto this year, is a happy-sad drama of starstruck fever that lifts you up and sweeps you along, touching you down in a puddle of well-earned tears.

The director, Tom Harper, and screenwriter, Nicole Taylor, play a bait-and-switch game that’s different from anything I’ve encountered in a movie like this one. For a solid hour, “Wild Rose” seduces you into thinking it’s going to be exactly the sort of cheeky inspirational fairy tale it turns out not to be. It’s not just that the movie gets better as it goes along — it actually knows it’s toying with you. The neat trick of “Wild Rose” is that the film seems to grow up before your eyes and find its glimmer of soul right along with its eager, talented, messed-up heroine.

At the beginning, Rose-Lynn gets released from prison, where she’s just served a year on a drug charge, and the first thing she does, after having her ankle bracelet snapped on, is to go over to her dude friend’s house for a post-incarceration boink. It almost seems an afterthought when she swings by her mum’s place, where Rose-Lynn then sits down to dinner with her own two kids, who are five and eight years old. Oh, them! Rose-Lynn gave birth to both before she was 18 (we don’t even hear about the fathers — one presumes that there’s more than one), and it’s shocking to see just how little heed she pays them. She’s too selfish for motherhood. She’s too selfish to take responsibility for anything she’s done.

Yet despite this gaping hole inside her, it’s the strategy of “Wild Rose” to sweep you up in the narcissistic charge of Rose-Lynn’s personality — her ebullient self-directed chatter, her obsession with singing. Jessie Buckley has a presence that’s pure fire. Even when Rose-Lynn is annoying, which is often, you can’t tear your eyes away from her.

She gets a job as a housekeeper working for Susannah (Sophie Okonedo), in a lovely suburban home, and when she sings a song for her, which takes Susannah’s breath away, we’ve got a hunch where the film is headed. Susannah decides to finance Rose-Lynn’s voyage to Nashville by crowd-funding it. For her 50th birthday, she’ll have Rose-Lynn perform at the party, with a band, and ask her guests to pony up in lieu of offering her a birthday present. That’s how much she believes in Rose-Lynn’s talent. And so…

Diamond-in-the-rough Scottish country singer with a personality problem but a voice as big as the room? Check. Saintly bourgeois benefactor whose love and support of Rose-Lynn turns this into a sisterhood buddy film? Check. All culminating in a trip to Nashville where Rose-Lynn struts her stuff and parades her artistry and proves her mettle? Check.

Every one of those elements is in place. Except that’s not how it goes down at all!

“Wild Rose” manipulates us into expecting a certain template of triumph. When Rose-Lynn declares that she loves country music because it’s “three chords and the truth” (a slogan she has tattooed on her arm), we think: Okay, that’s cute and tidy in a hipster way, and we can accept that’s the level the film is operating on. Only it’s not. “Wild Rose” knows what a reductive vision of country that is. The film, you see, has other plans. It pulls the country road out from under you. And that’s when it starts to get really good.

Rose-Lynn makes the trip to Nashville, all right. For a moment, the film indulges the romance of her down-home dream. During a tour of Ryman Auditorium, the fabled home of the Grand Ole Opry from 1943 to 1974, she slips away and onto the stage and sings a number a capella, and a musician who happens to be packing up after a rehearsal picks up his fiddle and accompanies her. It’s gorgeous — and right then, we’re all but ready for the movie to end. We don’t need to see Rose-Lynn become a star. That she’s there, in Nashville, with the desire and the gift God gave her, is enough.

But then she does something we really don’t expect. It’s a thing she has to do, and now realizes she wants to do. Yet it has nothing to do with singing — and, as it turns out, it has everything to do with singing. And at that moment, we’re moved beyond words. “Wild Rose” tells a richly stirring human story, but by the time the movie reaches its final number, which Buckley performs with an incandescent star-is-born glow, it lets you experience what the glory of country music really is: an art torn straight from life itself.

Toronto Film Review: 'Wild Rose'

Reviewed at Toronto Film Festival (Special Presentations), Sept. 8, 2018. Running time: 101 MIN.

Production: A Neon release of a Fable Pictures, Entertainment One, Film4, BFI Film Fund, Creative Scotland production. Producer: Faye Ward. Executive producers: Natascha Wharton, Leslie Finlay, Alison Owen, Xavier Marchand, Polly Stokes.

Crew: Director: Tom Harper. Screenplay: Nicole Taylor. Camera (color, widescreen): George Steel. Editor: Mark Eckersley. Music: Jack Arnold.

With: Jessie Buckley, Julie Walters, Sophie Okonedo, Jamie Sives, Ashley Shelton, James Harkness, Gemma McElhinney, Daniel Campbell.

More Film

  • Miramax Developing 'I Won't Be Home

    Film News Roundup: Miramax Developing 'I Won't Be Home for Christmas'

    In today’s film news roundup, “I Won’t Be Home for Christmas” is in the works, the NFL has made a documentary about female team owners and D Street Pictures has signed Kenny Gage and Devon Downs to direct the dance feature “Move.” HOLIDAY PROJECT More Reviews Concert Review: Yoko Ono Earns a Wide-Ranging, All-Female Salute [...]

  • Michael B. Jordan arrives at the

    Michael B. Jordan to Star in Warner Bros.' 'Methuselah' Movie

    Michael B. Jordan will produce and star in a “Methuselah” movie for Warner Bros., based on the Biblical story of a man who lived to be 969 years old. Jordan will produce through his Outlier Society production company along with Heyday’s David Heyman and Jeffrey Clifford. More Reviews Concert Review: Yoko Ono Earns a Wide-Ranging, [...]

  • Davids Chief Piera Detassis on Revamping

    Davids Chief Piera Detassis on Revamping Italy's Top Film Awards

    Piera Detassis recently became the first woman to head the David di Donatello Awards, Italy’s equivalent of the Oscars. Since then she’s been busy overhauling the inner workings of the prizes that will be awarded on Wednesday. Detassis, also the editor of Italian film publication Ciak, spoke exclusively to Variety about the challenges she’s faced [...]

  • Matteo Garrone's 'Dogman' Leads Davids Awards

    Matteo Garrone's 'Dogman' Leads Davids Awards Race

    With 15 nominations Matteo Garrone’s “Dogman” leads the pack of contenders for Italy’s David di Donatello Awards in a watershed year for the country’s top film nods that sees highbrow auteur titles reaping most of the David love just as local box-office grosses hit an all-time low. Garrone’s gritty revenge drama is followed closely with [...]

  • steven spielberg Apple TV Plus

    Steven Spielberg's Apple Appearance Riles Up Social Media: 'Big Old Mixed Message'

    Many Hollywood heavyweights flocked to Apple’s Cupertino, Calif. headquarters to help reveal the tech giant’s revamped steaming service Apple TV+ on Monday — but one such legend was so polarizing he became a national trending topic on Twitter for simply showing his face. Steven Spielberg was the first to appear in a dramatic short film [...]

  • Michael Lynne

    Former New Line Co-Chairman Michael Lynne Dies at 77

    Michael Lynne, the former co-chairman of New Line Cinema who played a key role in shepherding the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy, has died at his New York home. He was 77. Lynne’s death was confirmed Monday by longtime business partner Robert Shaye, who told Variety that Lynne’s family had informed him of Lynne’s passing [...]

  • Marisa Liston

    Sony Veteran Marisa Liston to Lead Lionsgate Movie Publicity

    Lionsgate has named Sony Pictures veteran executive Marisa Liston to lead all feature film and motion picture group publicity and communications strategy. Liston, who departed Sony in late 2018 after 17 years, has been assigned the newly created title of head of global earned media and communications. She will oversee domestic and international feature film [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content