Wild Rose Review
“Three chords and the truth”. That’s Country music in a nutshell and it’s tattooed on Jessie Buckley’s arm in Wild Rose, which tells you a lot about this great little film set in Glasgow. To paraphrase The Blues Brothers, it plays both kinds of music: Country and Western.
If calling it “Country and Western” annoyed you, well come on in; you’re amongst friends. I’m teasing, I know it’s just Country and so does writer Nicole Taylor who uses what fans know to be a cliché as a nice gag. Country music is still a niche genre, at least in the UK, so I find I warily approach anything that purports to understand its appeal. You’re never far from a dated and crass Dolly Parton joke. Within minutes of Wild Rose starting, you may find yourself breathing a sigh of relief. It gets it. This little film set in Glasgow knows “we can build our own Nashville, Underneath these grey skies” as The Shires said, and it’s proud, playful and witty.
For those of you not interested in Country music, you’re also amongst friends (although you do need to rethink your music taste!). The plot does follow a Country aesthetic, but that means simple, honest and a little bit sentimental in the best kind of way. It uses its own three chords wryly and the narrative is deceptive. Everything is there for the taking for the talented Rose. Two great kids; a long-suffering mum (Julie Walters) at the end of her tether but isn’t going anywhere; Rose has landed a decent job as a cleaner for Sophie Okonedo who can see talent even if she doesn’t understand it. The only thing stopping Rose getting her life together is Rose and her mouth. Like a David Fincher script, she is her own narrative conflict. Her own antagonist.
That supposed imbalance could get old and fast, but Jessie Buckley is superb. On one level, you sympathise with Rose even though she’s patently irresponsible and fundamentally flawed. On another, Buckley is a barely contained firework of attitude and talent. She’s a fine singer too; earthy and full of personality. The moment where she sings nervously for Okonedo is sublime, while on stage she comes alive. It’s a testament to her gracious performance and that of the rest of the cast that her square peg does fit into the round hole the script allows her.
We’ve had a lot of music dramas recently and Wild Rose can stand head and shoulders alongside A Star is Born and any others (I really liked Bradley Cooper’s movie too). In fact, it captures the heart of Country music more successfully than those primarily about Country stars (think bio-pics like Walk The Line, Coal Miner's Daughter, Sweet Dreams) and is more enjoyable to boot. And set in Glasgow too. But like any such film it lives and dies in its music choices. Wild Rose is savvy. Country is very self-referential and the oldies are never forgotten, so Patsy Cline and Kitty Wells sit in the background, while the music of newer musicians like Chris Stapleton is up front. It avoids the Country cliché because there is no such thing when you treat it honestly.
Plotted with fizz, there are sentimental twists but the most predictable ones are held back. Director Tom Harper doesn’t go for any heroics, wisely focussing on the music, the performances and a cracking script. And through it all, Jessie Buckley rests the full weight of the film on her capable shoulders.
The DVD sent for review was quite frankly a poor transfer. Obvious interlacing and flat colours, even accounting for the rather drab Glasgow in which the film is set. Seek out HD, be it import Blu-ray or streaming. There is contrast to be had. Jessie Buckley’s red hair and rhinestones deserve better.
The sound editing is wonderful. Rose works with a great live band who are clearly the dependable kind of session musicians Nashville is full of. There’s a couple of stage performances but there is one moment that stands out when she is alone, cleaning Sophie Okonedo’s house. Rose imagines the band members are with her while she sings along to her headphones. Visually, a nice indulgence by director Tom Harper to fantasy musical sequences normally inappropriate for such a drama, but the sound moves from tinny karaoke to professional performance standards too. Wild Rose captures the jamming spirit of Americana and the sound mix embraces it.
The DVD has a choice between Stereo 2.0 and Dolby Digital 5.1, but the menu options are the wrong way around! 5.1 is the better choice so make sure to check that's what you're getting. Hopefully the poor quality image and dodgy menu aren't effecting all pressings of the disc.
There's not much in the way of special features, just some interviews with cast and crew. They're fun to watch and somewhat engaging, especially with Nicole Taylor, though I wish there was more in the way of behind the scenes and making of material. The inception of the film is fascinating, but that is a story left untold for now.