Jessie Buckley shines as a Glasgow country singer pursuing a dream

Film | by Jorge Ignacio Castillo

Wild Rose
Roxy Theatre

Opens Friday 9
3.5 out of 5

About a year ago I interviewed the director of Beast, a little British thriller that made it to the prairies coasting on quality only. One topic we discussed was how the lead, Jessie Buckley, was poised to break big.

Buckley is delivering on that promise. She’s riveting as a fireman’s wife looking for answers in Chernobyl. But Buckley’s real showcase is Wild Rose, a musical drama that uses her vast array of skills, including her singing ability.

Buckley is Rose-Lynn, a country singer from Glasgow just sprung from prison. Rose-Lynn has the pipes, but has a lot going against her: Scotland is not quite Nashville, and she doesn’t have any connections in the music industry or money for a demo. Worst of all, she lacks the self-discipline and patience to stick to a path — yet she won’t give up on her dream.

Oblivious to her own shortcomings, Rose-Lynn tends to blame her surroundings, particularly her mother (Julie Walters), who took care of the songstress’ two children while she was in the clink and now expects her to provide for the tykes. The monster!

The vicious circle opens up a bit when Rose-Lynn’s employer (Sophie Okonedo) hears her sing and puts her contacts to work on her behalf. Regrettably, the country singer’s self-sabotaging ways won’t be denied.

For all of Rose-Lynn’s flaws, Buckley keeps us on her side. She gives us a textured character without shoving Rose-Lynn’s complexity in our faces. For the most part, the film offers an accurate portrait of the pursuit of a dream — one in which talent is just part of the equation, and reality, sooner or later, comes crashing down. While the story doesn’t take wild turns, it avoids obvious choices all the way to the end.

I’m far from a country & western fan, yet Wild Rose’s covers are on the money and Buckley makes them soar. Worth mentioning, the actress is set to star in two high profile projects: The Voyage of Doctor Dolittle (alongside Robert Downey Jr.) and Charlie Kaufman’s I’m Thinking of Ending Things. Here’s hoping Buckley remains wild and irrepressible now that she’s going Hollywood.