Hello everyone. So while I try to make an effort to see as many movies as possible in a given year, sometimes films worthy of attention just don’t come around my way. One of those films is “Wild Rose” and while I was not able to view the film personally on the big screen a friend of mine, a talented writer in her own right, was able to give it a chance. So for the first time on Cinema Spotlight, I present a guest review of “Wild Rose” written by my good friend Kaitlyn Boisvert. Enjoy!
The latest indie gem movie, “Wild Rose” is as funny and sweet as it is emotionally jarring and real. It’s lead star, Jessie Buckley plays an aspiring country singer Rose-Lynn who is freshly released from prison after serving a 12-month sentence. The details of her crime are humorously revealed in a colorful dialogue between Rose-Lynn and her lawyer. For anyone reading who may be interested in seeing the film, I will leave this plot detail uncovered so you can experience it for yourself firsthand, as it truly is a surprising delight. Offsetting the country theme is the film’s main setting in Scotland, within suburban neighborhoods outside the city Glasgow. Rose-Lynn is a character who commands attention immediately upon appearing on screen. She’s boisterous and sings Patsy Cline songs with unwavering passion. She gets in bar fights, wears tall white cowgirl boots proudly and has sex in public places with fervor. Yet just like her name, Rose-Lynn has a dual identity that commands her character – between her role as a mother and an aspiring musician. Although she is loud and at-times immature, the film still manages to achieve complexity with her character and capture her more vulnerable and tender moments that make her sympathetic and real.
At the start of the film, Rose-Lynn finds herself faced with a completely and overwhelmingly blank slate in her life. During her incarceration, her two young children were in the care of her more straight-laced mother (played by Julie Walters) who assumed the role of the family matriarch and leads with established routines and highlighted calendar dates. Since Rose-Lynn was absent during a formative time of her children’s lives, she has fallen out of touch with parenting. When she is shown on-screen with her children for the first time, she is awkward and unsure, seeming more like a detached older sibling than her children’s young mother. Her own children also seem unsure of their biological mother, often seeking their grandmother for approval and comfort. Nevertheless, Rose-Lynn does her best to reassemble the reins of parenting that she had left behind and create a better life for herself and her children. At the same time, Rose-Lynn is also trying to reignite her pursuit of becoming an accomplished country singer. As the only self-proclaimed country music aficionado in Glasgow, Rose-Lynn laments that she was born in the wrong country. Her chance for making it big in the country scene does not exist in her native Scotland – it exists in Nashville, an exciting city of opportunity that is so far away, yet feels so close to her ambitions and country roots.
The central theme of the movie is a question that many parents – both young and old – often experience. Can one pursue a dream while also raising children, or does one path thrive at the expense of another? Can the role of parent and one’s individual personality with one’s individual ambitions coexist, or can only one assert dominance? In an attempt to get her life back on track, Rose-Lynn takes up a job as a cleaning lady for an affluent family. The family very visibly lives a beautiful, privileged life full of expensive liquor cabinets and fresh kitchen produce that seems foreign to Rose-Lynn’s world of dingy apartment buildings and old-fashioned home phones. While she originally performs her tasks with an unenthused spirit, she quickly finds an escape in listening to music and putting on an imaginary musical performance to make her work less of a chore. Her singing quickly catches the interest of the wife and matriarch of the family – Susannah (Sophie Okonedo) – who leads a very upbeat and organized presence on-screen. Susannah takes a liking to Rose-Lynn because the latter reminds her of her uninhibited younger years prior to the ritz and glamour of her present-day accomplished life. Yet she also feels that Rose-Lynn has a special talent and potential that must be nurtured and recognized.
She steadfastly helps Rose-Lynn in amassing the connections she needs to get her foot in the door. The friendship they establish offers a truly compelling dynamic, as two women from seemingly opposing worlds are able to establish a close bond through music and support one another. As expected, Rose-Lynn experiences many obstacles throughout the course of the film both within her personal life and her musical ambitions. Some conflicts are caused by her own undoing while others are linked to simple strokes of bad luck that are completely out of Rose-Lynn’s control. Rose-Lynn and her mother constantly clash, with her mother growing frustrated with Rose-Lynn’s blights in parenting and constant obsession of pursuing a musical career. Yet the film does manage to balance the nuances of her mother’s character – Julie Walters masterfully portrays Marion with a believable depth and heart. Marion wants to see Rose-Lynn succeed as a parent, she knows that Rose-Lynn can be the mother she should be if she puts her mind to it, so it’s understandable why she grows frustrated when Rose-Lynn doesn’t seem to step up to the plate.
The central heart of the film and the most compelling scenes are definitely between Rose-Lynn and Marion. The more they appear on screen together, the more the film reveals that there is more to both women than meets the eye. High praise is deserved to both actresses, who both manage to offer a riveting portrayal of two opposing women who manage to find common ground and respect in each other within subtle, understated moments. The child actors who play Rose-Lynn’s children (Adam Mitchell and Daisy Littlefield) are also very believable and profound in their performances, particularly Rose-Lynn’s more reserved and mature daughter. Interestingly enough, the Internet synopsis of this film focuses on Rose-Lynn’s pursuit to Nashville, yet the core setting and a majority of the key events in the film take place in Glasgow. The film does hash out some predictable and familiar plot points and character tropes – yet it also manages to subvert and completely turn them on their heads. The falling action of the story manages to take completely sudden and unexpected turns, that help make the movie feel a little less like a movie and more, well – REAL.
I found the movie a complete joy to watch, as well as emotionally stirring. A big reveal towards the ending touched me so much that I cried heartfelt but happy tears. Although I did feel that a central plot point towards the end of the film could have been more climatic and substantial, I still found the movie overall pleasantly delightful. One potentially important note for American viewers who may not be used to Scottish accents like myself – many of the main characters have thick accents that may take some adjusting to fully understand. Humorously, Rose-Lynn does speak with an American at one point in the film and after listening to her talk, he pleasantly tells her: “I didn’t understand one word you just said!” Yet the accents, of course, help the film retain its Scottish authenticity, and after about a half-hour the dialect becomes more familiar and immersive. The soundtrack has its own voice and perfectly complements the film’s tone as well as Rose-Lynn’s personality and pursuits. High accolades are in order for actress Jessie Buckley, who helps Rose-Lynn come alive through not only her acting but her powerful singing as well. In addition to being the perfect feture film to own and watch on repeat, the soundtrack also stands on its own as a treasure worth owning and cherishing.
Overall, Wild Rose does rehash some common character plot devices that we’ve seen in previous movies – the flawed anti-heroine the audience cannot help but root for, the strict naysayer parental figure that presents conflict to the main character, the out-of-reach goal and pursuit that drives the motivation of the plot, and then an assortment of colorful characters that both challenge and invigorate the heroine for good measure. Yet Wild Rose still manages to stir up many surprises and take risks that stray away from the conventional Hollywood norm. When the film was reaching its end, I thought I had a solid estimation of how things would play out – and yet to my ultimate surprise and delight – the story took sudden and fresh turns I had not anticipated. Such a raw take is incredibly refreshing, as so often movies make life seem so simple and easy when everything is cleanly wrapped up with a neat little bow. To the contrary, instead of everything working out seamlessly and smoothly, our characters encounter messy bumps and complications. Not all is pretty and easily digestible – circumstances are complex and conflicting, just like real life. Yet the ultimate end result is much more gratifying as Wild Rose and our heroine Rose-Lynn appear all the more real and any achievement they earn feels well-deserved and gratifying to experience.
Although its independent movie status may not grant Wild Rose the publicity and attention it rightfully deserves, it is still a delightful movie on its own that offers a compelling glimpse into dreams, the human psyche, and one fiery Scottish heroine who can inspire all of us in our shared journeys of finding our voices.