Review: Jessie Buckley a star in crackling 'Wild Rose'

Rousing tale of a country singer from Glasgow comes alive thanks to star turn from Jessie Buckley

Adam Graham
Detroit News Film Critic
Jessie Buckley in "Wild Rose."

Talk about "A Star is Born." 

In "Wild Rose," Jessie Buckley is a supernova, a talent to latch onto and watch as she ascends into the stratosphere. The Irish actress and singer was astounding in last year's pitch black love story "Beast," which was seen by approximately 27 people, and she was seen by wider audiences as part of this year's HBO ensemble drama "Chernobyl."  

But in "Wild Rose," it's all Buckley, and this underdog tale of musical dreams and working class realities is the perfect vehicle for her to show off her stuff.  

Buckley stars as Rose-Lynn Harlan, a misfit from Glasgow who wants nothing more than to be a country music singer in Nashville. As if that path isn't complicated enough — have you heard a Glasgow accent lately? — Rose-Lynn is a mother of two and an ex-con in an ankle tether who spends her days working as a housekeeper. It's a sob story worthy of, well, a country song.

Buckley makes it sing. Her Rose-Lynn, dressed in her tasseled leather jacket and white cowboy boots, is a firecracker whose short fuse is always lit. Her mother (Julie Walters) is fed up with her irresponsibility and the indifference she shows her children, and thinks its time she gives up her pipe dreams of country music stardom and grow up.  

But that dream is the only thing keeping Roe-Lynn alive. Singing around the spacious house where she takes a job tidying up for a well-to-do couple, Rose-Lynn impresses Susannah (Sophie Okonedo), who decides to back her career. She sets up a showcase for her in her garden for her 50th birthday, and invites along her wealthy friends to see Rose-Lynn in action and, in turn, crowdfund her dream.

Though it has the underpinnings of a typical rags-to-riches music tale, "Wild Rose" — directed by Tom Harper from a script by Nicole Taylor — avoids both cliches and the road typically traveled by these films. It's not just the Glasgow setting that gives it its teeth. It's Buckley's heartbreaking, heart-stopping performance, and her character's strict adherence to the old country music ethos of three chords and the truth.

"Wild Rose" follows the same guidelines. When Rose-Lynn finds her way to the stage at Nashville's Ryman Auditorium, the film seems headed in one direction. But stay tuned. This isn't "A Star is Born," which took several shortcuts in turning Lady Gaga's Ally into an overnight sensation. "Wild Rose" is singing a different tune. Just don't be surprised when it winds up getting stuck in your head.

'Wild Rose'


Rated R: for language throughout, some sexuality and brief drug material

Running time: 101 minutes