Film Review: ‘Wild Rose’: Move Over Gaga, Another Star Is Born

By Mark Jackson, Epoch Times
June 26, 2019 Updated: July 9, 2019

R | | Drama, Music | 21 June 2019 (USA)

Why can’t this particular Epoch Times film critic shut up about the Hero’s Journey already? Every. Single. Movie. Review, he talks about it.

ginger singer playing guitar
Rose-Lynn Harlan (Jessie Buckley) singing in “Wild Rose.” (Neon)

Fair enough. But that’s because so many movies have this as their theme. Scholar Joseph Campbell made one particular type of Hero’s Journey famous—that of staying true to one’s talent(s) and living one’s bliss by having that particular thing that you’d be happy to do for free—as your paid career.

The early Greeks and Eastern philosophers’ take had more to do with there being only two fundamental human stories to tell: Either you live your life as an everyday person, or you discover “The Way” and practice one of 84,000 different enlightenment paths, morph into a deity, and never have to reincarnate as a human again.

Jessie Buckley in Wild Rose
Jessie Buckley plays a free spirit in “Wild Rose.” (Neon)

While one of these options is more mundane, both start with a person having initially to surmount a safe, comfortable life inside the confines of the village compound. “Wild Rose” is not just about realizing one’s bliss at the expense of others, but instead by embracing the full scope of the difficulty of this path, choosing to even sacrifice the dream in order to live with integrity, authenticity, and responsibility.

Not Country & Western

The young Scotswoman Rose-Lynn Harlan (Jessie Buckley, who’s actually Irish) got caught on a one-off drug-smuggling gig. She claimed she didn’t know it was heroin, but it’s likely she did, because she was in a young, wild, reckless, irresponsible, quick-fix, entitled phase of trying to break out of the starving-artist stereotype.

When she gets released from prison, she goes to pick up her kids, Lyle (Adam Mitchell) and Wynonna (Daisy Littlefield), from her long-suffering mom (an outstanding Julie Walters).

son, daughter, mom, grandma
Rose-Lynn Harlan (Jessie Buckley) and her family in “Wild Rose.” (Neon)

Lyle and Wynonna? Care to venture a guess as to what Rose-Lynn’s passion is? That’s right, she lives to sing Country music at a moment’s notice. And not Country & Western music, as she reminds everyone. Did you know it wasn’t called that anymore?

Rose-Lynn’s shackled with a probationary electronic ankle bracelet that, if she doesn’t get home and within range of the bracelet monitor by 7 p.m., it will notify her probation officer, indicating she’s not being responsible.

So it’s a challenge to find evening employment. It’s also a challenge to fit the bracelet inside her cowgirl boot. But off she goes to see if she can get her old job back at the Grand Ole Opry. No, not that one. The one in Glasgow, Scotland. Did you know Glasgow, Scotland, had a Grand Ole Opry?

But our Rose-Lynn is quite feisty; she’s got a mouth on her, and she’s soon cursing out the bartender, throwing drinks, and trying to throttle the low-talent former band-member who’s gone and made himself leader of her house band.

girl with microphone arm raised
Rose-Lynn Harlan (Jessie Buckley) singing in “Wild Rose.” (Neon)

Now, her mom is sick and tired of raising her wayward daughter’s kids, and issues the ultimatum that Rose go get a job—any job—and take her kids back. And so she gets a job cleaning house for a well-to-do couple.

There are then cliché scenes of pushing a vacuum cleaner around while singing and dancing, oblivious to onlookers. As they say, “talent will out,” and soon Susannah, her employer (Sophie Okonedo), not only knows where Rose-Lynn’s heart really resides, but she also desperately wants to assist Rose-Lynn on her Hero’s Journey dream to go to Nashville. In the parlance of the Hero’s Journey, Susannah is known as “the Ally.”

two woman talking
Rose-Lynn Harlan (Jessie Buckley, L) and her employer (Sophie Okonedo), in “Wild Rose.” (Neon)

Susannah is well-connected and sets up Rose-Lynn with an audition for the legendary disc jockey Bob Harris (played by Bob himself).

The thing with Rose-Lynn is that she’s her own worst enemy. On the way to London and the BBC to audition for Bob, Rose-Lynn’s mind is completely blown over the amenities that go with riding first-class. She starts a little party with the complimentary snacks therefrom, for a group of young proletariat types much like herself, and ends up getting her belongings stolen.

girl in front of studio mic
Rose-Lynn Harlan (Jessie Buckley) in “Wild Rose.” (Neon)

Susannah, furthermore, sets up a benefit party for Rose-Lynn, and invites all her wealthy friends. Will Rose-Lynn choke at the crucial moment? Will she realize the Hero’s Journey necessarily takes a different tack if one already has kids, and all the more excruciating if one has been in denial about—and lying about—that particular, minor fact?

Will she get to Nashville? And if she does, and sees that it’s a very, very big pond, kicking off the classic debate of whether it’s more satisfying to be a little fish in a big pond or a big fish in a little one—which way will she lean? Keep in mind the classic outcome of the Hero’s Journey is that you bring your hard-earned gold back to the village compound and thereby enrich your surroundings.

Concert crowd
Rose-Lynn Harlan (Jessie Buckley) sings and plays at Glasgow’s version of Nashville’s Grand Ole Opry, in “Wild Rose.” (Neon)

Makes Grown Men Bawl

“Wild Rose” is entirely similar to another recent movie about a different young Scotswoman going to America on a Hero’s Journey to be a World Wrestling Entertainment wrestler, in “Fighting With My Family.” That was a satisfying (and true) tale.

“Wild Rose” is even more satisfying. Even more satisfying than seeing Lady Gaga finally take her place as a bona fide movie star in “A Star Is Born,” and hearing Gaga sing as only she can.

Jessie Buckley is actually more impressive in that she’s coming more or less out of nowhere, and is, I have to say, even more charismatic and spellbinding as both a singer and an actress. She moves grown men to actual tears. I’ve personally witnessed it happen.

boy and grandma
Rose-Lynn Harlan’s son (Adam Mitchell) and her mom (Julie Walters) hear Rose-Lynn sing in “Wild Rose.” (Neon)

I managed to miss all the press screening invitations and ended up seeing “Wild Rose” at 11:15 a.m. on a Sunday in a completely empty theater. And it’s a good thing, too.

Now, I leg-press half a ton, ride a Harley, and know a thing or two about bar-fighting, so I’m not ashamed to say this movie made me bawl my head off. Yup. Bawled like a baby; frequent loud nose-blowing. Especially every time Jessie Buckley started singing. Immensely cathartic! I would have felt so emotionally constipated had there been other people around. I guarantee she will affect you likewise.

‘Wild Rose’
Director: Tom Harper
Starring: Jessie Buckley, Julie Walters, Sophie Okonedo
Rated: R
Running time: 1 hour, 40 minutes
Release Date: July 21
Rated 4 stars out of 5

Follow Mark on Twitter: @FilmCriticEpoch
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