**Please note this review contains spoilers**
As a Scottish country music fan who writes a blog about how much they love women in the genre it was a sure bet that I was going to adore Wild Rose, a movie about a Scottish country music singer who dreams of going to Nashville. It sounded so perfect it was as if I’d dreamed up the movie myself.
Before I saw it I read some comments from my fellow country fans about how it wasn’t a realistic reflection of the Scottish scene or the music industry. However I decided that I was going to leave all expectations at the door – after all this was a movie, not a documentary. Any movie which celebrates the power of family, friendship and country music – three things which matter to me more than anything – is always going to win my heart with ease.
Maybe you’re reading this wondering about why we Scottish people love country music so much? Firstly there are historical connections to our folk music scene – country music echoes our ballads, using instruments that we sailed over to America a long time ago. These songs are in our blood. Plus Scottish people have grit, and country music is the perfect soundtrack to our hard drinking, hard living real lives. And we also invented whisky, so those drinking songs belong to us too.
Screenwriter Nicole Taylor is a dedicated country music fan and you can tell this is a passion project for her. There are so many great little details – like Rose Lynn’s kids being called Wynnona and Lyle, to her ‘three chords and the truth’ tattoo. This movie respects country music and takes it seriously. The cameos from the likes of Ashley McBryde and Kacey Musgraves are nice nods to the women out there working in the genre for real.
Rose-Lynn’s character starts the movie just as she is released from prison after serving a year. Although we don’t see her early life we get the impression she’s had it tough. She was a teenage mother and now finds herself with two kids, despite not being much of a grown up herself. Her mother, played with a quiet dignity by the ever wonderful Julie Walters, helps her with her kids but she’s smothering in the way she tries to keep in her line and guilts her every mistake. There’s so many heart wrenching moments about the pains and realities of motherhood, that it can be hard to watch at times. Rose-Lynn fights against the trappings of her life, clinging to her dream of becoming a successful country singer, despite her criminal past.
Criminals of course have always found a home in country music, from Johnny Cash to Merle Haggard to Jaime Wyatt and Margo Price – being an outlaw gives you credibility. The reality is a little harder. Rose-Lynn has a tag and a curfew so she can’t play in the evenings. There isn’t much of a scene beyond the local club, Glasgow’s Grand Ole Opry – a place that does exist and is as crazily cool and brilliantly bonkers as the film suggests. Sure it is a fictionalised account of this venue and some locals may argue there’s a lot more to the country scene in the city – but it works as a narrative point to show how she has reached a dead end in her life and career.
As a working class single mother with a criminal record her options are limited. She begins a job cleaning for a rich woman, played with real sympathy by Sophie Okonedo. Part of the progression of Rose-Lynn’s character is the downfall of her dream. In her head if she gets money she can get to Nashville and all her problems will be solved. Her boss tries to help her, almost plays along with her delusions in the way her mother can’t. In fact her rich boss helps Rose-Lynn make contact with Bob Harris, who invites her down to London. I imagine this is the moment that some country fans were sceptical about but I think it worked because it doesn’t turn out to be her big break. When she eventually gets to the BBC, Bob just shows her round the studio and has a thoughtful discussion with her about her career. And anyone who knows Bob Harris knows that’s he’s the exact type of man who would take time out of his day to give advice to a young singer. His support for country music is beyond legendary. His heart and kindness towards everyone in the country music scene (myself included) is a lesson to us all. It was truly touching to see him get his moment on the big screen.
Soon after Rose Lynn decides to give up her dream of stardom for her kids. She stops wearing her cowboy boots and fringe jacket. In the end it is her mother who decides to give her the money to go to Nashville, in one of the most moving scenes in the movie.
In Nashville Rose Lynn gets another reality check. But it’s an inspiring one that makes her realise that she has to write her own songs, write her own truth like Bob told her to. The final moment of the film, where she sings her own song at Celtic Connections, is the triumphant heart of the movie. And it’s realistic that her success would be at this festival which celebrates the transatlantic music relationship, and not in some soulless arena show. The song Glasgow (No Place Like Home) stands out on the soundtrack (largely made up of country covers). And unlike that tragic A Star is Born ending, there’s no heartbreak here. The only love interest in this movie is country music itself, which never once lets her down. It’s an inspiring ending to a really entertaining and heartwarming movie.
The star Jessie Buckley radiates talent from the screen – she’s a fantastic singer for sure but more than that she understands how to inhabit that internal life of her character which comes out in her voice and her performance. Even when her Scottish accent occasionally falters she’s so entirely believable and convincing that it doesn’t matter. You root for her character and her performance as an actress too. And her voice suits the country genre perfectly. In fact she has lined up a number of gigs at country festivals over the summer where she will sing songs from the soundtrack, as well as her already sold out two nights at St Luke’s in Glasgow. Maybe she’ll even make it to the Opry for real, and I don’t mean the one in Scotland.
Wild Rose is in U.K. cinemas now and will be released in America in June. If you’ve already seen it then let me know what you think!