Aretha Franklin in Amazing Grace. Beyonce in Homecoming. Elizabeth Moss in Her Smell. 2019 is proving to be a big year for movies about women standing at the microphone, raising their voices, and transporting audiences.

And sometime soon — this year, perhaps, or next — actress Michelle Williams will play Janis Joplin for director Sean Durkin (Martha Marcy May Marlene). This could be huge. Major talents have been lining up for years to play what should surely be a demanding and sensational role, but project after project has fallen apart before cameras could roll — even one that was to star Amy Adams. Durkin’s Joplin film, though, seems like it might have some traction. If it happens, an actress whose career has continued to impress and improve looks poised to step into an Oscar-style spotlight.

As a fan of Joplin, Durkin, and Williams, I’m hopeful. But I know who I’ll be thinking about when the theater darkens and that movie begins: I’ll be thinking about an unexpected newcomer who has just rocked my world with her lead performance as a Joplin-esque country singer in Wild Rose.

When it comes to dream-come-true stories about performers, I’m rarely moved. Case in point: I was more annoyed than impressed with the recent remake of A Star is Born. Bradley Cooper’s big crowdpleaser kindled a few scenes in which characters resembled human beings, and Lady Gaga’s performance was engaging, sure. But the star’s rise seemed too fast, too furious, too easy. The film seemed intoxicated with glamour and money, accepting without question that celebrity status, big stages, and big audiences equal “success.” (And its director seemed awfully eager to style himself as an object of worship.) What’s more, too many of these films take severe dramatic turns merely for the sake of insisting that we feel things — like the embarrassingly contrived onstage humiliation of Cooper’s Jackson, the gobsmackingly severe tragedy that follows, and the way in which these crises conveniently set up Gaga’s major Oscar-hopeful moment.

But I’m exercising restraint in praising Wild Rose as one of the best times I’ve spent in the theater this year… with a suspicion that I might enjoy it even more the second time. For all of its formulaic turns, Tom Harper’s fairy tale cut right through all of my skepticism and made me a fan.

Rose-Lyn (Jessie Buckley) is released — or, rather, unleashed — from prison. Look out world! (Neon)

That has a great deal to do with actress Jessie Buckley, who is everything you’ve heard about and more. She rules the screen as Rose-Lyn Harlan, a Glawegian 23-year-old who, released from prison, immediately launches herself into a mad pursuit of her dream to conquer Nashville as a country music star.

Buckley, who apparently took second-place in 2008 on a BBC talent show I’ve never seen (I’d Do Anything), is absolutely convincing in every aspect of this complicated character. Rose-Lyn radiates recklessness, convincing us that she was rightfully incarcerated. She implodes under the pressure of crushing anxiety when she looks at two children she has somehow introduced to the world, children she must raise at the risk of her dreams. She clashes spectacularly with her well-mannered and understandably exasperated mother (Julie Walters, in top form).

Susannah (Sophie Okonedo) may have the connections to get Rose-Lyn’s voice on the radio. (Neon)

And — most importantly — she burns the house down whenever she sings, the microphone unlocking an irrepressible charisma. Some rising stars wear their hearts on their sleeves, but Rose-Lyn’s is not a mere accessory: Her whole body—from her golden throat to her furrowed brow to her dancing feet in those white cowboy boots—is a heart, red-blooded and passionate and vulnerable.

(Buckley might have struck me as too energetic, too supercharged in her performances… but I know better. I know a performer name China Curtiss Kent, lead singer of the band Alright Alright, who could easily have been the inspiration for Rose-Lyn’s onstage persona. Those she doesn’t speak with Buckley’s Scottish brogue, she looks a lot like her, and her friends joke about how it’s almost impossible to snap a picture of her in which she isn’t just a blur of motion.)

For Rose-Lyn, housecleaning is rehearsal. (Neon)

My admiration for Wild Rose also comes from its smart casting for supporting roles. Sophie Okonedo is outstanding in the role of Susannah, a posh and perceptive woman who takes a chance by employing Rose-Lyn as a housekeeper. Her extravagant home becomes a stage upon which the ankle-tagged singer dances and sings when nobody’s looking: think Patsy Cline playing the role of Mary Poppins, singing her way through her chores. Inevitably, those private performances will be discovered — that’s hardly a spoiler. And Susannah, her sweetness perfectly contrasting with Rose-Lyn’s whiskey sour, will reveal another level of generosity.

I mentioned Julie Walters. I need to say more about her. As Marion, Rose-Lyn’s mother, she’s charged with playing this formula’s most familiar (and typically limiting) role: the disapproving parent, the doubter, the nay-sayer — and yet still surprises by creating a convincing, complicated, and ultimately endearing character. How often have these movies been all about brushing aside the one who dares to question and reprove the rising star? How often have they been merely an obstacle, a villain, an example of How Not to Be? As Marion, Walters carries off one of the film’s most satisfying twists: Mother knows a thing or two. And the best possible outcome is for the movie to acknowledge her wisdom.

Julie Walters is given a richer role than the disapproving parent usually plays in stories like these. (Neon)

But Wild Rose‘s victory over my deep-set skepticism has even more to do with its final act. I was actually nervous, stressed out in my seat, during the the film’s last 40 minutes, fully expecting the spell to be broken, betting that these filmmakers would blow it. Movies about juggernaut talents can go wrong in so many ways. Some kind of deus ex machina will catapult the hero to automatic fame just when all seems lost. The big final number that is meant to be a showstopper will turn out to be mediocre. The screenwriter will steer the protagonist off-road for some cringe-worthy calamity, hoping to send us home in sobs.

But Wild Rose doesn’t go wrong in any of these ways. To the credit of writer Nicole Taylor, it demonstrates wisdom far deeper than almost any road-to-stardom story I can think of. It’s more about how a soul is saved than how a star is born.

What’s harder than becoming a Nashville star when you’re an ex-con in Glasgow? Parenting two children who barely recognize you when you’re released from the joint. (Neon)

And the finale’s big closing number is strong enough to send us out eager to pick up the soundtrack — which features Buckley’s own performances, thank goodness. I’ll be turning up the volume on her voice for the rest of the year, hoping she sings her way to the kind of Oscar-stage moment that Rose-Lyn herself might have dreamed about — not because that would signify success, but because I love this movie and I don’t want it to disappear unnoticed.