With the Fourth of July being celebrated this week, what better time than to think about the American Dream? The idea of pursuing life, liberty and happiness enshrined in the Declaration of Independence itself, along with the idea that you can make any dream happen if you just work hard enough.
In the new movie “Wild Rose,” a young and wild single mother of two named Rose-Lynn dreams of being a country singer. But she’s got a few obstacles in the way, including the fact that she lives in Glasgow, Scotland, and is fresh out of a year-long prison stint for distributing heroin. Now wearing an electronic ankle bracelet, she is required to be home every night from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m.
Rose-Lynn is the kind of free-wheeling gal who yells the F word at the top of her lungs the second she’s free from her jail cell and heads to her boy toy for a shag before bothering to make it home to her young son and daughter. Add a stop at the pub where she gets buzzed on whiskey on the way home, and it’s no wonder her mom isn’t too happy to see her return after a year of raising her kids.
With her children distant from her and a seemingly dead-end job as a housemaid to a wealthy family that pays her just about $12 an hour, Rose-Lynn feels like she’ll never pull together the money to escape to Nashville and take a real swing at success. But when the children of her employer Susannah come home early and catch her belting out a song while vacuuming, Susannah asks her if she’s tried to make it professionally.
Rose-Lynn responds by immediately asking for $5,000 to make a fresh start in Nashville, but Susannah tells her to instead tape a video demo of herself singing and send it to the top country music deejay on the BBC radio airwaves. When Rose-Lynn knocks his socks off with a beautifully heartfelt ballad, she gets an invitation to come meet him in London and her dreams seem suddenly tangible.
Yet questions remain: Is she really talented enough to make it, or is she jeopardizing her family by seeking to spend time away from them? How will she resolve things with her mother, who thinks she’s delusional? And can she really ever put her wild past behind her?
“Wild Rose” is a quiet film, in spite of its occasionally rousing tunes sung by lead actress Jessie Buckley, an Irishwoman who broke out on a British talent competition series and has been a rising star ever since. Rose-Lynn is a fascinating character, a real hell raiser in the early scenes of the film, but eventually revealing a profound loneliness and desire to finally do better as a mother, a daughter and for herself.
Buckley has incredible vocals, but in keeping with the movie’s intimate and quiet tone, her most powerful moments are in the songs where she sings almost in a whisper. It’s a magical effect that will make those who see this movie fall in love with her immediately.
As her mother, veteran actress Julie Walters (who was Oscar-nominated in the 1980s for “Educating Rita”) looks and acts like Emma Thompson. It’s a solid performance of a woman who has been ground down and exasperated by her daughter’s poor behavior and incredibly bad choices for so long, she wonders if she’ll ever truly turn it around.
Those aspects — of redemption and family, trust and the desire to change — are universally relatable issues. They make this movie very affecting, but the occasionally too-slow pace keeps this from being a perfect movie. If you love good music or character-based drama, however, “Wild Rose” should smell quite sweet.
“Wild Rose”: B