Directed by Tom Harper
Starring: Jessie Buckley, Julie Walters, Sophie Okonedo
Rated R for language throughout, some sexuality and brief drug material
1 hr., 41 mins.
Ah, finally, an independent film that’s worth a summer’s viewing. Something different, a little off the beaten path, a loving romp through fresh fields of country music. All placed (mostly) in Glasgow. Yup. Scotland, where there really is a bar named The Grand Ole Opry, and folks honestly do love their country music. As they would say in my native Tennessee: Whoo boy, get a load a’ this.
Now, let me tell you right off: This film is in English, but not English as we understand it. It’s Scottish, and not the rolling brogue of Sean Connery’s 007. This is working-class street slang that rolls off the tongue and bounces off the ear. You won’t understand it. Not even a little. But that’s okay. Just watch the pictures. You’ll figure out the rest, and the music is full-out Nashville.
Rose-Lynn Harlan (Jessie Buckley) is one of those people you can love but not live with. She has the energy of a nuclear power plant. Unfortunately, the explosive impact on her family is like Chernobyl.
Just released from a year’s prison stint for selling heroin, she returns to live with her mother, Marion (Julie Walters), the caretaker of her kids. Rose must be reintroduced to her daughter, Wynonna (Daisy Littlefield), and son, Lyle (Adam Mitchell). They’re like cats, eyeing each other suspiciously.
In the meantime, Rose has an obsessive dream to take her country voice to Nashville, and she doesn’t mind ramming her way through songs on stage at her former bar, The Grand Ole Opry, even if someone else happens to be performing.
Broke and out of prison, Rose is lower than working class in Glasgow. Under strict probation, Rose’s mother manages to help her get a housecleaning job at a local estate where she meets Susannah (Sophie Okonedo), a posh English housewife.
One day, Susannah’s kids come home and catch Rose singing. They tell their mom, and she asks Rose to perform. When Susannah learns of Rose’s talent, she decides to help give her dream a push. After all, she’s got the means. Rose has the talent. It’s a great match, except for this little glitch involving Rose’s children and her past prison record. But for Rose, mum’s the word.
Ah, well, so you think you’ve guessed this story? Except director Tom Harper and screenwriter Nicole Taylor don’t take you down the typical rags-to-riches path. There’s more to this story than just another Coal Miner’s Daughter. You gotta break hearts to be real country.
Buckley is a flaming torch. She walks the line between her dream and her family and you’re never quite sure if she’s going to touch ground or fly off into a country pasture. Walters is equally stellar as the mother who holds the rope tight on her wild colt of a daughter. With that rope fraying, the children staring and the law pushing in, Rose doesn’t have a lot of wiggle room. But she can’t stop singing either. So what does that get you?
For one thing, it’s a beautiful backdrop for country music, a full lineup of artists who contribute: Chris Stapleton, Hank Snow, Emmylou Harris and so many others. With the ragged edge provided by Buckley’s performances, these songs take on new depth.
You may be wondering why you would go see such a film. Glasgow, country music, Scottish street brogue? Because it’s wild, unpredictable, funny and, most of all, it’s a story that captures the dual existence between a girl’s dream and the true grit of a woman’s life. It’s got everything: Love, sex, hardship, lies, drugs, booze and real possibilities, if Rose could just learn to fly straight. Then again, it’s what we love about her. She’s like summer fireworks. They go up in the air, but you never quite know where they’re going to land.