Rose-Lynn (Jessie Buckley) has been inside a jail cell for the best part of a year, but now her sentence is at an end and she can taste freedom once again. Well, almost, she still has to wear a tag, but she is mainly pleased to be out so she can set about living her dream. The first thing she does is go straight to the flat of her boyfriend Elliot (James Harkness) and have sex with him in a nearby park, but after hanging around with him for a while she realises she will have to go to her mother Marion (Julie Walters) and see about her two young kids who she had to leave with her all this time. But she does not really care too much about them when she has that dream: to sing country at Nashville!
And there lies a problem with Wild Rose, for it was a drama with a deeply unsympathetic character at its heart; it takes a long time for her to wake up to the realities of her situation, by which time her reward may not strike you as entirely justified. If screenwriter Nicole Taylor had it in mind to present the possession of undoubted talent as a pathological selfishness, where everything those who have it will be centred around achieving success and damn everyone else in the process, then she could have been onto something truly provocative. As it was, there was a feeling we were intended to be championing Rose-Lynn from the very beginning because of the hand she was dealt.
She has been born into a working class Glaswegian environment, and this is portrayed as a disadvantage which may have actual working class Glaswegians wondering if they were being patronised here. Our heroine (anti-heroine?) takes this as an obstacle to rise above using her ability to hold a note - she keeps telling others that she has sung at the city's Grand Ole Opry ever since she was fourteen years old, and that's as may be, but it does not give her a free pass to act the way she does, utterly callously. Taylor made it even more difficult to warm to her when we see the effect this is having on her children, who are under no illusions that their mother considers them an inconvenience.
If Marion is frosty towards her daughter then we are none too surprised, but it goes further than that, as she appears to actively detest her and is riddled with shame at bringing this wastrel into the world, especially when it is the granny who must look after the children and make them feel actually wanted. Really this was emotionally bruising stuff, and Rose-Lynn starts, against the odds, to make small progress with her life's ambition when the clueless, middle class Susannah (Sophie Okonedo) who she works for as a cleaning woman offers her the chance to raise funds from her friends to go to Nashville and try her luck. That she believes simply showing up in that city and have a deal handed to her was indicative of the fantasy land in her head, and there's nothing wrong with being a dreamer - sometimes.
It wasn't much fun to watch Rose-Lynn behaving badly, though Buckley put in a very decent reading of the character which humanises those sharp edges in the latter stages, but it was a bit of a slog to reach there. Walters had proven time and again her Scottish accent was impeccable, but Buckley was, if not terrible, then a little too close to Fife to be completely convincing, however that was a quibble, it was her singing voice that had to be the true test of the role and she did put across the songs in such a way that maybe a musical might have been a preferable path to take. This was billed as a comedy, though there were no laughs in it, it was largely too painful for that, but as a character study of a young woman who is convinced the world revolves around her it was compelling enough to keep you watching. The final redemption would have been more moving had we seen any sign of this change in personality earlier, but you can be happier for those around Rose-Lynn than perhaps her own self. Music by Jack Arnold.