Screenwriter Nicole Taylor (Three Girls, The C Word) has said Wild Rose was written as a love letter to Glasgow. Since the character started talking to her 10 years ago, she has honed and crafted the script until it was ready to put in to production, damningly sure that the setting was non-negotiable. Wild Rose follows the journey of Rose-Lynn Harlan (Jessie Buckley), stepping out of prison in her white cowboy boots and back in to the city in which she was raised. Here, she returns to two young children, her own mother at the end of her patience (Julie Walters) and a bare-arsed lover (James Harkness). From here, we watch her attempt to take responsibility for her own life once again, all while striving desperately to fulfil her dream to go to Nashville. Though Taylor sees country music ‘in the water’ here in Glasgow, Rose-Lynn, with her astounding talent as a country singer, cannot see anyone else who lives and breathes the music in the way she does on home soil. No one understands ‘three chords and the truth’ in the way she does.
Taylor was drawn deep in to Rose-Lynn, her unwavering Glasgae spirit and often wreckless gumption. She could see arguments for both sides: a woman needing to take responsibility for her choices, yet a young girl with an unrivalled talent deserving of a chance to make it. It is this debate that forms the centre of Wild Rose and that hooks and engages the audience. In the same way it took Taylor time to know how to end it, I watched it unsure of where it was going and where I wanted it to. You so much want her to have it all, but this never seems an option for a girl born in the ‘wrong place’. You watch Rose-Lynn and despite her mishaps and mistakes, her brazenness and bolshy attitude, feel a tenderness toward her plea and understand that her truth is buried deep within her but, like many, is simply an aspiration to something bigger. Though her choices may seem selfish, as Taylor put it, ‘All she wanted was to be allowed to want what she wants… a taste of it.’
As part of Glasgow Film Festival, the Scottish premiere of Wild Rose was followed by a Q+A with Nicole Taylor, star Jessie Buckley, director Tom Harper and co-star, Glasgow’s own, James Harkness. All four effused a pride and a warmth toward each other, their film, and the city. Irish-born Buckley immersed herself in the ‘Weegie mentality’ in order to understand fully what she believes to be the backbone of the film: Rose-Lynn’s Glasgow identity. Harkness was emotional and overjoyed, taking little time to answer questions directed at him and instead using the opportunity to praise Buckley’s performance. For him, it’s not just a Glaswegian accent Buckley ‘smashes’, but the spirit of the city too.
The screening was filled with people you could tell has been involved in the film, proud they were seeing the birth of something they’d had even a small touch of. We felt somewhat like imposters amidst those embracing, congratulating, reuniting and blowing kisses across the room. There wasn’t a part of the evening that didn’t ooze the same spirit Taylor, Harper and all the stars aimed to convey: the film, the Q+A, the mingling, the journey to the Grand Ole Oprey, the performance by Jessie Buckley, the interactions between audience members, filmmakers, actors and locals. Warmth, joy and affection were all on the track list.
For country music veterans and novices alike, Buckley’s voice cannot fail to drop jaws. Kicking off the after party concert with an energetic rendition of ‘Country Girl’ (see above), you could see what she meant when she remarked ‘there’s a life before country and there’s a life after country… it’s got to my heart.’ Buckley channelled the ‘naughty and irreverent’ Rose-Lynn but with the coyness and softness of her own self. She sneered, eye rolled and flirted through the songs, acting the part as effortlessly as she belted the notes. Within the Grand Ole Oprey’s mountain mural painted walls and neon signs, amidst the crowd of locals and visitors, Buckley couldn’t fail to hold hearts even tighter than she had been all evening and lift them up a whole octave higher.
Set for general release on April 12th, with its good humour, full heart and soaring talent, Wild Rose is sure to be a success countrywide. For all those young and misunderstood, they’ll find comradery in Rose-Lynn; for those with a dream, big or small, they’ll find hope; for those stuck in the mundanities of daily life, they’ll find a fresh perspective.
But it can’t be denied that in Glasgow, Wild Rose will find a special sort of success, one not just commercial, but spiritual. It’s impossible that with its skyline shots, lingering summer evenings, juxtapositions of class and culture, outdoor shags, sticky pubs, ballsy banter and hearty sing-a-longs it won’t fill Glaswegians with pride. It’ll join the likes of Billy Connolly, the cone-headed statue and the Barras in the Glasgow Hall of Fame and embed itself in the hearts of locals, because just like Rose-Lynn sings, there really is no place like this beautiful city we call home.
Written by Katherine Warren.