by Matt Weiner
“Three chords and the truth” is the driving spirit that runs throughout Wild Rose. It’s the reason aspiring country singer Rose-Lynn Harlan (Jessie Buckley) doesn’t just love the genre, she lives it. She has it tattooed on her arm, and her dream of Nashville superstardom buoys her otherwise dreary working-class life in Glasgow.
It’s also an apt quote to hang the movie on. From the opening setup, you already know the notes and you know the progression. But darned if Buckley doesn’t still have something to say, and in a voice that can’t be ignored.
Buckley (Taboo, Beast) animates every frame as Rose-Lynn, fresh from a year in jail for drug charges and defiant at anyone and anything that comes between her and the country fantasy world she has built her life around.
This includes her long-suffering mother and two young children. Far more supportive is her new employer, the posh Susannah (Sophie Okonedo), who hears Rose-Lynn singing while cleaning her house and encourages her to send a recording to the BBC.
Of course Susannah’s support comes at the expense of Rose-Lynn hiding pertinent background details, and it’s this central tension between following your dreams and making a life of what you already have that concerns most of the drama.
But even if Rose-Lynn’s path is a familiar one, the movie (written by Nicole Taylor and directed by Tom Harper) still imbues her arc with touching consideration and naturalistic ups and downs. Thanks in large part to Buckley, who brings a gut-wrenching humanity to each inevitable screw-up, it’s a journey that is compelling and well-earned—no small feat for the kind of story where at least some cathartic triumph is the payoff we expect for all those bumps along the road.
Wild Rose raises some truly thorny questions about the pursuit of art and the expectations surrounding that. While Rose-Lynn’s story arrives at an answer a bit too neatly, it’s no less catchy of a refrain. There’s a reason that Nashville sound churned out so many hits.