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MOVIES: Wild Rose - Review

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A better A Star is Born than A Star is Born, director of BBC Mini-series War & Peace and the second Woman in Black film Tom Harper delivers a instant classic in the form of Wild Rose, a social realist movie about country & western music set primarily in Glasgow, Scotland, as we explore Rose-Lynn Harlan's devotion to the genre and her ambition to realise her dreams in Nashville, United States, becoming the next Dolly Parton in the process. However her past holds her back, with time spent in prison leaving her feeling emotionally detached and distant from her kids. Constantly torn between her family and her career ambitions, Rose-Lynn strives to make the best out of the situation that she's in, always wanting to escape. It's an inspiring movie that echoes the likes of John Carney's superb Sing Street and Once, whilst also serving as a homage to not just country music (Artists ranging from Johnny Cash to Patsy Cline and Chris Stapleton et al are all featured here either as part of the soundtrack or namedropped by the characters), but also country movies. I was reminded of Robert Altman's Nashville multiple times over the course of Wild Rose even if it tells the story from the perspective of one character as opposed to multiple, and any fan of country music will fall in love with this film.

The entire cast is at the top of their game, and Jessie Buckley delivers what by all rights should be an awards-worthy performance. Her character is believable and the audience completely buys into the journey and transformation that she undergoes over the film, starting out as a selfish, arrogant and self-centred character who puts herself first and everybody else, including family, second. Yet despite all this the audience never hates her character, and Buckley really makes all the screentime that she has count. There are rare times when she is not in the screen at all, and always feels like the centre of attention whenever she's present. Refreshingly, especially after the recent release of A Star is Born, the person responsible for discovering her talent is not another white male character (and on top of this, something that feels all the more rare in movies like this, romance is not the main focus of Wild Rose and for that matter, there is no male lead at all) but instead the well-connected and enthusiastic mother of two Susannah, who is played here by Sophie Okonedo. Both Susannah and Rose-Lynn's developing relationship as employer and employee is fascinating to watch unfold, and the film leans into some comedic moments which drew plenty of laughs from the audience at the screening I attended, who were generally kind towards the film. Rose-Lynn finds comfort and ease spending more time with Susannah's kids than she does her own (there is an hilarious reference to The Shining pretty early on in the film), but as the film progresses it turns into a heart-warming and crowd-pleasing experience that has all the potential to be the next British classic.

The film feels refreshing in more ways than just one. It's unpredictable, especially in regards to its third act, which completely feels earned and very rewarding. The breath of fresh air is very much appreciated and adds into the factor as to why I loved Wild Rose as much as I did, as it does enough to seperate itself from the rest of the films of its genre and do so in a stylish and unique way. It's a film that hits all the right notes, and although it adopts a familiar structure it offers a different and welcome take on that structure that has served other films so well in the past.

Wild Rose never overstays its welcome, and although at 101 minutes it almost feels too short as by the end you completely want to spend more time with its characters and the world that they inhabit, as both story and characters are executed perfectly. It's not just Buckley and Okonedo who are worth mentioning, but also a mention should be given to the fantastic Julie Walters who also delivers a memorable supporting turn as Rose-Lynn's mother, who is fed up with her daughter putting herself over her career. The conflict between family and career is one of the main driving forces of the narrative, and it leads into multiple situations where Rose-Lynn is forced to pick one or the other, making the most out of her development over the course of the film. The attention on character first and foremost really allows Rose-Lynn room to grow as the film progresses, and the songs that Buckley performs are instantly memorable. A soundtrack album of original songs is needed as soon as possible.

Wild Rose releases in the UK on April 12. This review is from an advanced Odeon Screen Unseen screening.

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