By Louie Bell, First Year, Geography
Tom Harper’s new film forgets to sympathise with the socioeconomic setting in its classic tale of rags-to-riches as Rose-Lynn (Jessie Buckley) emerges from a working-class, Glaswegian background to become a country music star.
Fresh from a 12-month sentence in prison, Rose-Lynn returns home to her mother Marion, superbly played by Julie Walters, who has been caring for Rose-Lynn’s two children. An absent mother, whose children barely talk to her, Rose-Lynn is gifted with a superb singing voice, however, and her true passion is country music with a childhood dream of making it to Nashville, Tennessee. Her own mother, however is growing both tired and impatient with her daughter’s inability to keep a job and face up to responsibility. Wild Rose centres on her efforts both to piece her life back together and to pursue her childhood dream.
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Jessie Buckley has the makings of a star and her performance in Wild Rose is extraordinary, hitting all the right notes as she performs and sings her own songs with the veracity of a true country star. She also convinces as the frustrated, boozy teenager her character remains despite a jail sentence and the two children she had before the age of 18. The energy driving her performance keeps up the film’s pace even throughout quieter, more reflective moments.
Unsurprisingly perhaps, Julie Walters’ performance as the long-suffering Marion shines the most, providing the film’s most three-dimensional performance as a mother torn between her daughter’s dreams and the responsibility as a mother she so frequently fails to hold. Any scene with Marion is instantly elevated to the best parts of the movie.
The performances, however, are sadly the best part of a film that is predictable from the very outset. Sure, we all know the rags-to-riches story of someone pursuing their dreams only to find that it’s not as easy as they once thought, but there is no need to make the whole exercise so unremarkably cliché that you can spot the ending after the first 25 minutes.
The key to Wild Rose’s failure to engage is the lack of setting, so essential to the messages it wants you to take away and ponder on. Whereas the story should focus on the struggles inherent in a society which puts working-class women living in deprivation at the bottom the pile, it fails to explicitly establish Rose-Lynn’s struggle. The film centres around messages of what ‘home’ truly is, yet avoids portraying the socioeconomic struggle of being working-class, female and deprived.
The inclusion of various jokes about Rose-Lynn’s heavy Scottish accent do nothing to reinforce the film’s notions of social empowerment. My friend Noah, with whom I saw the film, remarked that it was ‘entertainment at the cost of education’.
The film is also dubious on its portrayal of charity, as much of it focuses on a wealthy benefactor whom Rose-Lynn cleans for, and how she falls in love with country music so much that she offers to help make our protagonist a star. (You can imagine my relief when this takes a more complex turn).
I was bitterly disappointed with #WildRose— Dec Is In The Endgame Now (@DeclanMckinney) April 12, 2019
A story about a small town country singer trying to make it big is squandered by an incredibly unlikeable lead character who I found difficult to root for, despite Jessie Buckley's blinding performance.#CineworldUnlimited
It is this absence of setting and character development that makes Buckley’ protagonist almost completely unsympathetic throughout most of the film. Instead of being a product of the vast inequality that has dominated her life and outcomes, she appears simply as grumpy and extremely irritating. The turnaround in her life is less enjoyable to watch as the character development is not founded on a genuine change in her perceptions and personality.
Whilst there is no doubt that the film has a joyful message about family, dreams and love, the execution is simply not there. The moments at which the film attempts to wrong-foot you are yawn-worthy and the musical motifs supposed to generate emotion are desperately overused. (There’s only so many times in a film when ‘melancholy slide guitar = BAD’ can be utilised before becoming tedious).
There may be some who leave this film genuinely uplifted by this story, but I am disappointed Wild Rose abandons the potential for a socio-political message in favour of a predictable musical story which does very little to establish any sympathy or true character in its protagonist. A mistake that, given the weight of the protagonist in a film like this, is seriously costly in how much the audience takes from it.
Wild Rose is showing at Watershed until 18 April.
Featured Image courtesy of Entertainment One
Do you think Wild Rose neglects its working class setting?