Wild Rose follows Glaswegian Rose-Lynn Harlan on her journey to become a country star, despite being recently released from prison and being a single mother to two young children. This is a classic rags to riches narrative that country music is so fond of. Played by Jesse Buckley, Rose-Lynn is a bright disaster of a person – she’s talented but can’t seem to make her big break and doesn’t seem capable of taking on her own responsibilities, including caring for her children. The odds are stacked against her and we spend much of the film rooting for her.
Despite country music and Rose-Lynn’s deep love for the genre – she even has ‘three cords and the truth’ tattooed on her forearm – the film doesn’t take many pains to flesh that relationship out. Rose-Lynn doesn’t write her own music, or play guitar, or even seemingly to have an attachment to a specific musician. Country has a deep tradition of heartache and you could draw a parallel between the lives of Hank Williams and Rose-Lynn. Williams was the granddaddy of country and damaged many of his relationships with his mother, estranged wife, and his sobriety, in order to play at the Nashville Opry stage. Rose-Lynn has much of the same ambition and her goal throughout was to make it to Nashville, and when she succeeds she even sneaks onto the Opry stage and sings a song before being kicked out. However, because the film doesn’t discuss or show the importance of Nashville to stars like Hank Williams or Dolly Parton, the moment feels less than emphatic, lost in translation.
The same could be said of the relationships closer to Rose-Lynn’s day to day life. Her relationship with her children always feels slightly estranged, even when the film makes a turn and she makes more of an effort to know them. In part this is due to a lack of characterisation and history. We never really know very much about the children, other than they’re something tying Rose-Lynn to Scotland, stopping her from her pursuing her dreams full-time. We also never really understand the situation that saw Rose-Lynn with two young children under the age of ten. Rose-Lynn also has a boyfriend who seems to disappear entirely before the third-act and doesn’t offer much at all in the way narratively.
The richest relationships Rose-Lynn has are between the woman she cleans for and her own mother. Rose-Lynn’s mother wants her to settle down and take responsibility for herself and her children, while her boss is the only person actively encouraging her to pursue her country career. The two women are opposing forces in the singer’s life, and ultimately she decides to try and find a middle ground.
Despite the wobbly characterisation, Wild Rose is home to some very funny, sweet moments. Jesse Buckley brings a lot of brightness and spunk to Rose-Lynn and sings very sweetly. Mostly, Wild Rose made me want to listen to Dolly Parton’s ‘9 to 5’ at volume and dance around my room. I’d recommend this film if you’re looking for some light fun and some country heartache.
Words by Riana Kinlough