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Movie Review

Stop me if you’ve heard this before: A young, aspiring musician strives to trade a dire situation—one marred by rejection, loss and failure—for the wistful promises of fame and stardom in the big city.

Sound familiar? Fresh off the most recent iteration of A Star Is Born, Hollywood’s infatuation with this standard-issue plot device only continues to grow. In fact, the stereotypical template's versatility has crossed overseas, all the way to the dreary (on the big screen, anyway) city of Glasgow, Scotland.

Twentysomething Rose-Lynn Harlan emerges from a brief prison stint to take on Glasgow’s tough cobblestone streets armed only with a voice, an ankle monitor, and healthy side of spunk. From the moment she’s escorted out of prison, it’s evident she has friends and enemies. One of her fellow inmates shouts, “Go be the next Dolly Parton, honey!” while a guard mumbles, “You better not come back here again.”

But Rose-Lynn is determined to achieve fame as a honky-tonk music star, and she'll do whatever it takes. Even if it means not being honest with herself or others. Even if her decision to chase fame requires neglecting her two young children and her responsibilities as a mother.

After all, Dolly Parton didn’t start in Glasgow. And as Rose-Lynn knows all too well, Scotland is a far cry from the country music capital where she hopes to make her mark. Yes sir, this hard-rocking, hard-drinking, hard-swearing, tattooed ex-con has her sights set on Nashville—Music City, USA.

And not even her thick Scottish accent or criminal record can keep her from her quixotic dream.

Positive Elements

In significant ways, Wild Rose is a redemptive story set within the stark reality of one young woman's deep brokenness. Rose-Lynn’s relationship with her mother, Marion; and with her children, Wynonna and Lyle; rests at the center of these struggles. Coming out of prison, Rose-Lynn begins her new life in about the worst place a young, single mother possibly could.

Rose-Lynn has big problems, to be sure. She shifts blame. She fails to take responsibility in important ways. But the film makes it clear that she's not heartless: She really does care. The relationships between grandmother, mother and children here are visibly strained, but they are upheld by Rose-Lynn’s growing commitment to motherhood—a path forged in late-night cleaning sprees, decorated refrigerators and home-cooked meals.

It’s painfully obvious that Rose-Lynn could never do it alone. And so Marion serves as a selfless, loving grandmother to her grandchildren and as a supportive mother to her volatile daughter. Marion is a stalwart presence, an always-on-call nanny, and she rarely shies away from doling out advice that eventually helps Rose-Lynn gain perspective as a mother.

[Spoiler Warning] Toward the end of the film, Marion also gratefully gives a large sum of money to Rose-Lynn, enabling her to finally fulfill her dream to visit Nashville.

Meanwhile, Susannah, who is a wealthy patroness, befriends Rose-Lynn and initially offers her a job as a house maid. As the movie progresses, Susannah also proves an important connection in helping Rose-Lynn pursue her musical career.

Several people display selflessness and express gratitude throughout the film, character traits that spring from honest moments of reflection and growth. One person comments that "when you stick to things," it yields hope.

Spiritual Content

There's little, if any, explicit spiritual content here, other than the broad suggestion that redemption (albeit in secular, not sacred, terms) is possible.

Sexual Content

Upon her release from prison, Rose-Lynn’s first stop is an old boyfriend, who is taking a midday shower. She jumps on him, and the camera widens, showing rear male nudity. The scene quickly cuts to an aerial view of a park where they are seen having a sexual encounter, with graphic sounds and movements, though no nudity is seen.

A few women wear low-cut and tight-fitting clothes. One character undresses, revealing upper leg and rear nudity. During performances, we see people dancing quite suggestively. We also hear one rather raunchy conversation.

Violent Content

In the heat of an argument, one frustrated person slaps another. People get shoved around at a local bar, with one character throwing a beverage at someone else.

A wardrobe falls on young Lyle, breaking his arm and hitting him on the head. Though the accident takes place behind closed doors, the crash and subsequent scream can be heard. In the hospital, there is some blood on his head.

One character issues a menacing threat to another character.

Crude or Profane Language

We hear more than 30 f-words, with about five of those uses combined with Jesus’ or God’s name. Other frequent profanities include “a--,” h---,” “s---,” “d--n,” “pr--k,”and “b--tard.” We hear a number of British vulgarities as well.

Drug and Alcohol Content

At times, it seems alcohol is Rose-Lynn’s only solace. She plays the majority of her shows in bars, where patrons drink all manner of alcoholic beverages. Characters drink to the point of drunkenness, stumbling across tables and chairs.

While working as a maid, Rose-Lynn raids the liquor cabinet and steals drinks from Susannah’s stash, often swigging straight from the bottle. This leads to an inebriated, dreamlike sequence complete with sweeping shots of an imaginary band.

Before she performs, Rose-Lynn drinks, often leading to drunken performances. She also imbibes in front of her children during the day.

Characters smoke marijuana and cigarettes. As is often the case in country music, the lyrics we hear frequently reference smoking and drinking as well.

We hear about a woman who smuggled heroin while she was drunk, which led to a 12-month stint behind bars.

Other Negative Elements

Rose-Lynn is a tornadic force, capable of instant destruction and powerful emotive influence at a moment’s notice. Her attitudes towards authority and family, especially her own mother and children, often show her explosive and unstable state. She's also a pathological liar, withholding various truths from important people at key points in the story.

Several scenes involve irate shouting matches between Rose-Lynn and her family members. Verbal assaults leave some characters in visible emotional distress.

From reneging on pizza-party promises, to dumping her children off at friends’ homes, to intentionally lying about her children’s existence, Rose-Lynn’s selfish neglect of her children takes many forms. During one of those unexpected drop-offs, Lyle turns to his mom and yells, “I hate you! I hate you! I hate you!”


Whether she's performing for hundreds or singing as she vacuums alone, the unadulterated power and bittersweet beauty of actress Jessie Buckley’s voice dominates Wild Rose. We feel her pain, her passion, and her earnest desire for a better life. There’s magic in the way she entrances her audiences—both onscreen and in the theater.

Unfortunately, we feel a whole lot more than that. And we see it, too. For every pleasant smile that crosses our faces when Rose-Lynn croons into a microphone, her reckless lifestyle—smoking marijuana, drinking constantly and exploding into profanity-laced arguments—summons twice as many grimaces.

Like its predecessors in this formulaic genre, Wild Rose tells a story in which redemption and self-destruction intertwine. Rose-Lynn may be a well-intentioned mother. But her self-sabotaging tendencies rarely result in a positive outcome for herself, her family or anyone around her.

The story's deepest tension, surprisingly, doesn't involve the gap between her dreams of fame and her desire to be a good mom. Instead, as Rose's maternal instincts slowly awaken, she fears being rejected by her children—an anxiety that overwhelms her at times. It’s this awakening that peeks through the wreckage of her life as she slowly starts to correct her course.

Still, these poignant moments are painfully bookended by a honky-tonk full of profanity and addiction. Brokenness and redemption mar and mark the lives of Rose-Lynn and her family, with her choices—both good and bad—reverberating through the hearts of those she loves even more powerfully than her beautiful voice.

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Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

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Jessie Buckley as Rose-Lynn Harlan; Julie Walters as Marion; Daisy Littlefield as Wynonna; Adam Mitchell as Lyle; Sophie Okonedo as Susannah; Kacey Musgraves as Singer


Tom Harper ( )





Record Label



In Theaters

June 21, 2019

On Video

Year Published



Jackson Greer

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