Jessie Buckley is a revelation as an aspiring country singer living in Glasgow who dreams of making it to Nashville. The Irish-born actress, who delivered a knockout performance in last year’s “Beast,” is also a classically trained musician and runner up on the BBC talent show “I’d Do Anything.”
With fiery red locks and a voice that sounds like a cross between Gretchen Wilson and Melissa Etheridge, the actress is perfect for the role of Rose-Lynn Harlan, a 23-year-old mother of two who just served 12 months behind bars. Now if that isn’t the making of a country song, I don’t know what is.
British director Tom Harper, inspired by a recent trip to Austin, delivers a parable for dreamers who must learn to accept their reality before chasing that dream.
As the film opens, we meet Rose-Lynn Harlan just as she’s being released from prison after serving a year behind bars for tossing a package filled with heroin into a prison’s courtyard.
The 23-year-old claims she wasn’t aware of the contents, and she feels that the judge’s sentence was too harsh. She’s probably right, but after a rousing send-off from fellow inmates, one who screams “You’re gonna be the next Dolly Parton!” as she heads for the exit, Rose-Lynn is ready to pursue her dreams of being a country superstar.
Veteran actress Julie Walters, who received Oscar nominations for 1983’s “Educating Rita” and 2000’s “Billy Elliot,” plays Rose-Lynn’s mother, Marion, who just spent the last year taking care of her daughter’s two young kids, Wynonna (Daisy Littlefield) and Lyle (Adam Mitchell). I’ll bet you can guess who they were named after. Walters is fantastic as the judicious mom who wants her daughter to take responsibility for the kids. No sooner had Rose-Lynn arrived home, than she and the kids were out of Marion’s house and living in their own small, cramped apartment. Grandma wastes no time.
Every parent makes sacrifices for their kids in one way or another. For some, that means giving up on their dreams. Rose-Lynn is in her early 20s, and it’s obvious that she doesn’t have her priorities in order.
You would think that after serving a year behind bars she would have matured but sadly the kids are passed from one babysitter to another while she concentrates on pursuing her career as a country artist. When Rose-Lynn asks her mother for help with the children, Marion is reluctant.
She thinks her daughter is neglecting her children for a foolish dream. By the time we reach the final act of Nicole Taylor’s screenplay, both Rose-Lynn and Marion will have an epiphany that will cause them to rethink their actions.
To get ahead in any career these days you must realize the value of networking. As a radio broadcaster, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been asked, “How do I get my song played on the radio?” For Rose-Lynn, help comes in the former of her affluent employer Susannah (a wonderful Sophie Okonedo) who’s hired the aspiring musician as a housekeeper.
She convinces Rose-Lynn to record a video and send it to legendary BBC radio host “Whispering Bob” Harris who invites her to London for a tour of the studio. His best advice; learn to write your own songs. We all know by now that Rose-Lynn has a ton of material based on her own life experiences, even though she’s still under 25.
Harper captures the struggles of raising kids as a single parent while balancing a career. Buckley’s free-spirited performance is not to be missed.
Fans of country music will appreciate the cameos by Kacey Musgraves and Ashley McBryde and the great soundtrack that features Buckley singing cover versions of “When I Reach the Place I’m Goin’” by Wynnona, “Outlaw State of Mind” by Chris Stapleton, “Born to Run” by Emmylou Harris, “Crying Over” by Patty Griffin, a countrified version of Primal Scream’s “Country Girl,” and the stunning rendition of the new song “Glasgow” (No Place Like Home) written by actress Mary Steenburgen.
Songwriter Harlan Howard described country music as “Three Chords and the Truth” in the 1950s. Buckley’s character has the phrase inked on her arm, but fans of the genre don’t need a tattoo to remind them that country music is based on real life: the joys, the heartbreaks, and my favorite, the beer.