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BFI London Film Festival 2018 Review: Wild Rose – “An engaging, investing and ultimately joyous film”

In Tom Harper’s Wild Rose, Jessie Buckley (star of the excellent Beast) plays Rose-Lynn, a woman fresh out of a year in jail who’s trying to get her life back together and achieve her dream of being a country music star. She wants to get to Nashville so takes a job as a cleaner to start saving for her dream. Of course, there’s also the matter of her two young children who don’t know how to be around her after a year apart from their mother. They’d rather stay with their grandmother (played to perfection by the flawless Julie Walters) and Rose-Lynn is very out of practice at parenthood and doesn’t know how to change their minds.

It’s a story we’ve seen before – a down on her luck young woman striving for greatness and not noticing all the greatness she already has (until the end, of course). However, it’s done so well that you’re there with each of them from the off, utterly invested in their every high and low.

Added to this is the incredible soundtrack of songs Buckley performs (she wrote many of them, too). The songs vary, offering a mixture of raw and emotional and oodles of fun, and each one is performed with an incredible stage presence that shows off Buckley’s huge passion for music.

Rose-Lynn’s actions throughout Wild Rose are frequently questionable but never unforgiveable. She makes bad choices along the way and all you can hope is that she’ll eventually learn from them. Her relationship with her mother and children, and the struggle she has between achieving her dream and taking her responsibilities seriously, make for a brilliantly fleshed-out character. You see why people both love and hate her. She takes advantage and runs from the everyday but when she’s present, she’s really there for her family and wants them to be happy and safe.

In a beautifully understated performance, Walters is the perfect combination of firm and fair as the concerned mother/grandmother. She loves her daughter – that much is clear – but she’s no pushover and won’t stand for Rose-Lynn repeatedly letting down her own children.

Walters and Buckley’s central performances, paired with a marvellously layered script and great direction, combine to make an engaging, investing and ultimately joyous film that brings with it both happy and sad tears.

Come for the music, stay for everything else.

Check out our London Film Festival coverage

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