In Review: Wild Rose

Uplifting character studies centered around big musical dreams and humble beginnings are commonplace enough to have their own predictable cliches: crises of confidence, magical circumstances that leapfrog the protagonist into opportunity, loved ones who doubt. They are all at play in Tom Harper’s country (nix the western) saga Wild Rose, a fable about a young Glasgow woman with Nashville dreams weighted by her reckless and sometimes criminal behavior. You can keep time by the how the film hits all of its very expected emotional beats and its narrative one.

But what makes the film one of the most moving recent films of its kind is Wild Rose’s divergent final perspective, one that surprises and shadows the film’s closing moments with a grounded emotional truth that makes for a hell of a soaring closing number. Add to the mix a sensational performance from future superstar Jessie Buckley as the troublesome Rose-Lynn and you have one of the summer’s most joyous movie pleasures.

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In Review!: “Brooklyn”

Glossy and gorgeous, John Crowley’s Brooklyn stars Saoirse Ronan as the young Eilis (that’s “ay-lish”) emigrating from Ireland to 1950s New York City, leaving behind her family and small village for the promises of American opportunity. Crowley and screenwriter Nick Hornby (the About a Boy and High Fidelity novelist) craft a world populated with vibrant characters to prevent the drab cliches one might expect from such a plot in a film with such mainstream intentions. A current of fierce passion runs underneath the pristine surface, with Saoirse Ronan’s eloquent performance elevating the entire endeavor.

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Tasked with a massive character arc and range of emotional beats, Ronan has to carry the weight of the film squarely on her face. The film’s power is thanks mostly to her ability to wordlessly express Eilis’s internal struggle, from girlish meekness to forthright womanhood, from wide-eyed ignorance to comfort within her own skin. Crowley and cinematographer Yves Bélanger are clearly fascinated with her face, and who could blame them with her astounding ability to push the narrative with even the slightest movement in her features. Ronan motivates Eilis’s struggle with shades of discovery and despair, covering that she’s written a bit thinly. It’s a classic movie star performance not just for its emotive expressionism, but for the confidence given to rely on her abilities to connect with the audience.

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