Wild Mountain Thyme is an oddball. It’s not really a romance considering the often pasture-wide of longing distance between its leads, nor witty enough to be a rom-com. But it’s not particularly dramatic enough either. It’s as if you landed in a sketchy bed-and-breakfast in the countryside and someone hastily mixed a lukewarm kettle of mint tea in with a couple shots of whiskey and called it a hot toddy. There are lots of confusing notes to taste here that sadly doesn’t fill the expectations of how lovely an Ireland-set sweeping romance starring the incomparable Emily Blunt and dashing Jamie Dornan could and should be.
The movie sees the return of John Patrick Shanley in the writer and director’s chair for the first time since 2008’s Doubt, which scored five Oscar nominations, including for his screenplay. Like Doubt, Wild Mountain Thyme is another adaptation of a Shanley play, this one called Outside Mullingar, which was on Broadway with Debra Messing for a short time. It didn’t quite measure up to the same acclaim on stage either, as The Irish Times claimed it to be “beyond the edge of awfulness.” I wouldn’t exactly describe the movie version in this fashion (I've seen much worse), but I’d imagine without the enchanting landscapes of Ireland or Blunt and Dornan’s added sparkle, it just might be.
The Irish atmosphere would be enough to cozy up to if it wasn’t so one-note.
The most glaring issue of Wild Mountain Thyme is how uninteresting it not only is, but actively tries to be. The story revolves around Jamie Dornan’s Anthony Reilly, a somewhat adorably shy farmer who learns that his aging father (Christopher Walken) may decide not to leave their property to him after his death. He has ideas to leave it to an American relative of theirs, played by Jon Hamm. Emily Blunt plays Rosemary Muldoon, the longtime neighbor to the Reilly’s who is hopelessly into Anthony, who is probably the only other man her age she’s ever met in their vast and isolated side of the countryside.
Throughout, Wild Mountain Thyme makes a valiant effort to explain to Rosemary that where they live is incredibly boring and that he is too. But she persists… by quietly longing into the ether in daydreams about how she wishes she could continue to live her boring life, but like… with him, because love, I guess! But hey, I get it. They grew up together, it’s supposed to be this backyard romance that’s easy to root for. And Hamm’s part in the film does give some dimension to Rosemary’s strange dilemma. If only the movie gave us something to gnaw on in terms of the lifestyle being sold here, because the premise is even unassured that its characters are being placed on the right path. It’s as if the breathtaking beauty of its setting is a character partially being ignored here.
Emily Blunt and Jamie Dornan are a peculiar, sometimes electric pairing.
Before getting into the performances that kind of worked in Wild Mountain Thyme, we need to talk about the glaring New Yorker in the room. As mentioned prior, Christopher Walken plays the father to Jamie Dornan’s Anthony, and their relationship is supposed to add some soul to the film. Walken is truly a legend, and most films I’ve watched with him (even if he’s in the background) usually end in high praise. In the case of Wild Mountain Thyme, his presence just confuses. He doesn’t really try to do the Irish accent, despite everyone else in the cast really going for it, and it just takes away from this fairytale escape the movie is going for. And when it comes to a teary-eyed moment between Walken and Dornan, it’s so odd to watch it fall so flat. There are some nice moments between Walken and the cast, and there’s a solid effort, but there’s also a strange anomaly happening here where the talent is just not enough to give this film the kick it needed to get there.
As far as Emily Blunt and Jamie Dornan are concerned, it’s a smart pairing that ends up working in between the movie's muddled mess. They are both out of their comfort zones here, with Blunt playing a much more internal and restrained character. Though she does get to use her vocals to sing a rendition of the titular ancient song in a more rustic and personal way following the high-profile glitz of Mary Poppins Returns and Into the Woods. Dornan is charming and awkward, and it’s a welcome change of pace to see these big names portray the kind of love story that’s rough around the edges and weird. But so much feels so forced. It's a Hollywood makeshift trying to turn on the Irish charm.
Wild Mountain Thyme third act makes up for many of the slumps throughout.
It’s not until the latter part of Wild Mountain Thyme when the movie starts coming together and gives you a glimpse of the kind of movie you probably signed up for all along. The way it's tied together is so much more entertaining than some of the other elements that bog it down. But, they also really get into what their spirit animals are. When Emily Blunt’s character is given some space to be more immediate and active in her role, the movie's bored elements get uprooted and its sweeter intentions emerge.
With an empty head, you’ll reach the end credits enraptured in Wild Mountain Thyme, but if you pay attention throughout, the holes are too glaring for the movie to pick you up, sweep you by your feet and send you packing your bags to Ireland, which I'd fully expect this film to treat you to in the least bit. This is the discount tour.
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