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Wild Rose


Stars: Jessie Buckley, Julie Walters., Sophie Okonedo, Jamie Sives, James Harkness, Craig Parkinson

Director: Tom Harper

What's this? A BFI/Channel 4-backed film that's actually really good? Surely some mistake. But not so. Powered by its two charismatic lead performances, and solidly set in Glasgow, this is a feelgood film all right, but one that looks at real-life problems and doesn't cop out with a Hollywood ending.

Irish actress Buckley, an earthier version of Jane Asher (remember?) is simply superb as the Rose of the title, while Walters gives her best performance in ages as her mother who, frequently lumbered with Rose's two small children, has virtually given up on her. And their Scottish accents are, to the untrained ear at least, entirely convincing.

Born and bred in Glasgow, Rose-Lynn Harlan (Buckley), fresh out of jail for trafficking heroin, returns to her mother and kids, still dreaming of going to Nashville to fulfil her dreams of becoming a country music singer.

Forced to wear a tag on her ankle, however, she has little chance of going any further than the other side of the Clyde.

Becoming a cleaner to rich Susannah (Okonedo), to whom she has revealed none of her criminal record, not to mention her son and daughter, Rose-Lynn finds herself befriended by her employer, who opens up a possible way ahead for a career in music. But her mother is uncooperative and Rose is compelled to ferry her two mites from one babysitter to another while she practises with her band.

Buckley, the find from Beast and TV's The Last Post and War and Peace, is an absolutely rattling singer and no mean actress; she makes Lady Gaga look like a beginner. The camera dwells at length on her face and the actress responds with a nuanced performance that spellbindingly commands centre stage. A star is, indeed, born here.

The Glasgow ambience is well captured without being in any way condescending, and even a potentially winceworthy guest appearance from 'whispering' Bob Harris is not too egregious. Harper's direction, like Buckley, has bags of energy, even if he seems to tentatively explore ending the film two or three times before it finally comes to a close.

David Quinlan

UK 2018. UK Distributor: eOne. Colour by Panalux.
99 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 1, Swearing 2.

Review date: 07 Apr 2019