From the opening lines of Wild Mountain Thyme, it is clear viewers are in for one absolutely bonkers ride.
“Welcome to Ireland. I’m dead!” That’s a heck of a way to start a romantic drama. Now, imagine those same words spoken by Christopher Walken. But now think of them spoken by Christopher Walken doing an Irish accent that sounds fresh out of a box of Lucky Charms. That, my friends, is how John Patrick Shanley’s baffling Wild Mountain Thyme begins.
On the surface, the Jamie Dornan-Emily Blunt romance is exactly what you think it is: a look at unrequited love between two childhood friends who have grown up on neighbouring farms. She pines for him, he pines for her, but both are oblivious to the others’ feelings. With the inevitable passing of the Reilly family patriarch Tony (Walken) looming, it’s decided he must sell his farm to the next generation. But not to his goofy son Anthony (Dornan) because, as an unmarried thirty-something man, he can’t possibly work the land on his own without building for the future. Instead, Tony intends to hand the farm down to his American nephew Adam (Jon Hamm), an equally unmarried big city lad who has never set a well-polished foot on farmland. Makes sense.
City slicker Adam is as suave as most movie Yankees are, especially as played by Hamm, and inevitably, Rosemary (Blunt) falls for him, which causes Anthony a fair bit of heartbreak. The drama does its best to keep Rosemary and Anthony apart, seemingly unconcerned with whether the obstacles that stand in their way are believable or not.
Sure you can see where this is headed from an Irish country mile away, but wait, dear reader, for there is a buzz-worthy twist so absolutely bizarre it’s hard to believe. When it is first revealed as a whispered secret from Anthony to a woman, she laughs and falls off a wall. We can relate. While I won’t ruin the big reveal—it goes a long way to explaining why Anthony has labelled himself unlovable—and it’s a real doozy.
Wild Mountain Thyme is complete, absolute nonsense. It’s the kind of film you want to love, but it’s almost impossible. This movie has everything going for it: a story written by the Oscar-winning writer Shanley—who brought us Moonstruck, one of the greatest romance films of all time; likeable leads in Blunt, Dornan and Hamm; a beautifully green and lush Irish setting that has repeatedly and cornily been described as a “love letter to Ireland”. But somehow, these ingredients just don’t add up. Even for someone who loves all things Irish (I mean, I did throw the inaugural Colin Farrell Film Festival), Wild Mountain Thyme is rife with clichés and not nearly enough of that famous Irish charm.
Though the accents in the film are lifted straight out of the school that brought you Darby O’Gill And The Little People and Far And Away, you can’t completely begrudge the decision when a true County Mayo lilt would be almost indecipherable to American ears. So while there’s that to consider, Dublin’s Leprechaun Museum has something to say about the choice:
— National Leprechaun Museum (@leprechaun_ie) November 10, 2020
Regardless of where you fall in that discussion, the casting of Walken as an Irishman is inexcusable. There’s no doubting his talent as an actor in movies like The Deer Hunter, The Dead Zone, or even Seven Psychopaths, but Walken is woefully miscast here as an Irish farmer. With his distinctive speech patterns as apparent as ever, the actor is unable to disappear into the role—as hard as he might try.
Based on Shanley’s Tony-nominated play “Outside Mullingar“, Blunt is just as miscast and given very little to do other than pine, pout, smoke a pipe (no, really), wear long flowing dresses with high-necks, and wait for a man as if it were the 1950s. While neither of the leads look like they’ve done a day of farm work in their lives, Dornan fares slightly better with his role of the awkward Anthony.
This is our first look at a goofy Dornan too—a side of him audiences aren’t accustomed to seeing. Whether it’s proposing to a donkey or revealing the film’s silly mystery with a straight face, he does so with aplomb. Then there’s Hamm, who does what Hamm is often asked to do—look handsome in a suit while making a few quips here and there to woo the ladies. Funnily enough it’s the film that should have spent more time trying to woo its audience.
By the time Wild Mountain Thyme hits its Irish goodbye, Walken’s opening line will seem the most normal moment in the entire movie.
Wild Mountain Thyme is streaming in the U.S. and will be available on VOD in Canada starting December 22.