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Short Take: Wild Rose

(Tom Harper, USA, NEON, Opening June 14)

A year after delivering, in Beast, one of the few recent portrayals deserving of the term “fearless,” Jessie Buckley ecstatically announces herself as neither an actress who can carry a tune nor a singer with a functional screen presence, but a protean performer of limitless potential. Declaring that with this film a star is born indulges in the hoariest of clichés—as Wild Rose unabashedly does. But in providing Buckley her first big-screen musical showcase, the film reassures us (especially those who were less than gaga for other supernova star vehicles of late) that triple-threat entertainers still walk the earth. Indeed, she even co-wrote her songs.

Buckley (herself Irish) plays Rose-Lynn, a Scottish ex-con with two children, despite being still on the uphill slope of her twenties, and a country-music obsessive whose ankle monitor– concealing cowboy boots and rose-embroidered blouses clash starkly with her gray Glaswegian surroundings. Dreaming of Nashville, the diminutive tornado enlists everyone she meets in her pursuit of “three chords and the truth”—including the kindly, well-connected Susannah (an overqualified Sophie Okonedo), whose house she cleans.

To its credit, Tom Harper’s film counts the cost of Rose-Lynn’s ambition— her children are authentically sullen, and her mother (a stern Julie Walters) resents always having to pick up the slack. In time, both older women deliver “seize your moment” speeches; while Rose-Lynn is a true original, her arc is not. But even as the script strums the same three chords, Jessie Buckley always tells the truth.

Steven Mears received his MA in film from Columbia University, where he wrote a thesis on depictions of old age in American cinema.