In the UK, particularly under the reign of the now-crumbling Conservative Party, the current attitude towards the working class runs the gamut from a patronizing use of the ‘poverty aesthetic’ to genuine hatred and vitriol. While the wealthy of this country are able to get away with bizarre and scandalous activities, the poor are held to such an unreasonable standard that deigning to purchase anything other than tinned food and toilet paper with their benefits is seen as a moral transgression. This is why I, despite eventually finding some issues with the pacing and plotting, was immediately attracted to the story and protagonist of Wild Rose, which follows and fully acknowledges the constant struggle of Jessie Buckley’s Rose-Lynn as she desperately tries to balance both paid and invisible labour with her dream of leaving Glasgow to become a country singer in Nashville.
Back from a stint in prison due to her involvement in heroin dealing, Rose-Lynn finds herself in the position of needing to support her two young children as a single mother, getting a job as a housekeeper and heavily relying on her mother (played brilliantly by Julie Walters) to do so. While singing along to her iPod at work, her uninformed boss Susannah takes a shine to her, encouraging her to pursue her performing dreams ‘before kids’. This story, as well as inherently pointing out how different opportunities remain unfairly separated and stifled for working-class women unable to afford help, allows for a fantastic level of complexity in the characters. Susannah, though genuinely supportive and fond of Rose-Lynn, is unaware of her own economic privilege, and can come off as naive or condescending while still remaining a likable character. Similarly, Rose-Lynn’s mother Marion has the capacity to be harsh and dismissive of her daughter, but the sacrifices the character is subtly shown to have made make this flaw far more understandable and relatable.
This, of course, brings me to Rose-Lynn herself, an effervescent yet hardened character lent a memorable and energetic performance from Buckley that is sure to go down as one of 2019’s best. Rather than turning away from Rose-Lynn when she sings as so many singers-turned-actors are inclined to do with their characters, Buckley only brings more life to the concept of her character, translating her rightful anger and determination into an almost masochistic passion in performing her ballads at any time, anywhere. Somehow, she simultaneously pulls off an imperceptible star quality and charisma with a down to Earth ordinariness reflective of the vigorous city she was formed in. Her character may claim to be ‘American on the inside’, but I struggle to think of a better, more shining representation of the working class honesty and resolve found in the UK in Rose-Lynn and her story.
So, although issues like Susannah’s arc hardly developing or reaching a decent conclusion and the film feeling sluggish at points are hard to ignore, Wild Rose is very much like its protagonist: raw, charming, and full of optimism. For those tired of UK movies that focus exclusively on either the exploits of the super-rich or the misery of those in poverty, I implore you to watch this film and inject some light into your evening entertainment.