CAST: Emily Blunt, Jamie Dornan, Jon Hamm, Christopher Walken, Dearbhla Molloy, Danielle Ryan, Abigail Coburn, Darragh O’Kane
RUNNING TIME: 102 mins
BASICALLY…: Tensions rise within an Irish family when the patriarch (Walken) decides to leave his farm to his American nephew (Hamm) instead of his son (Dornan)…
NOW FOR THE REVIEW…
When the trailer for Wild Mountain Thyme debuted last year, all anybody could talk about were the laughably bad Irish accents coming out of the mouths of decisively non-Irish actors like Emily Blunt and Christopher Walken. Even poor Jamie Dornan, who actually is Irish (from Northern Ireland, to be exact), got criticised for what sounded like a phoney accent, by those who perhaps weren’t as aware of his true roots.
However, having actually seen the film, there are far bigger problems to pick apart than just the accents. While they’re not the best Irish impersonations, they’re at least worth talking about; everything else is so dry and boring that you’ll have difficulty paying attention to anything due to a lack of caring or any other sense of involvement.
Set in the greenest, cloudiest piece of Irish countryside you could possibly find in a motion picture, the film revolves around Anthony (Dornan), a lowly farmhand whose elderly father Tony (Walken) is starting to think about passing on his cherished land, and Rosemary (Blunt), a girl from the neighbouring farm who has harboured a life-long love for Anthony, despite him never seeming to acknowledge her signals. Conflict arises – sort of; it’s hard to know in a plot where hardly anything happens – when Tony decides that he shall sell his farm to his American nephew Adam (Jon Hamm) instead of his more absent-minded son, which sets both Anthony and Rosemary on a path where they may finally, truly declare their true feelings for one another.
Writer-director John Patrick Shanley, who here adapts his own play Outside Mullingar, appears to have been utterly lost while making this movie. While its theatrical origins are admittedly less obvious than some of the more recent (and phenomenally better) stage-to-film adaptations, Wild Mountain Thyme still manages to completely condescend to a Western audience with a heavily romanticised vision of Ireland, one that’s filled with stereotypical caricatures, livestock as far as the eye can see, and the strangest lack of irony surrounding certain characters’ unwillingness to conform and yet are still seen smoking old pipes and dancing around in old-fashioned dresses. It feels like a movie that should have been made in the 1950s, during that golden era of Hollywood that would go so far as to romanticise everything from the American Civil War to the wintery landscapes of the Soviet Union, which makes its oddly backwards view on Irish culture and lifestyles stand out all the more in 2021. Shanley’s script, filled with overwritten dialogue and unengaging non sequiturs (at one point, a character decides to put their lovelorn ambitions to a halt so they can fly all the way to New York for a day just to watch the ballet), makes little use of the stereotypical notions other than to acknowledge them and do nothing with them, while his direction bathes itself in archaic filmmaking techniques and landscape cinematography which rings falsely twee, enough to make something like Mrs. Brown’s Boys feel like Angela’s Ashes by comparison.
I wish, though, that I could say that this thoroughly misguided view on Ireland and its natives in general paves the way for some unintentional comedy of the so-bad-it’s-good variety, and in some parts you can get a decent chuckle out of some of the flimsy pronunciations (a lot of Christopher Walken’s delivery is questionable, to say the least, but not because of the script and more because it’s that delightfully awkward trademark persona that Walken is best known for). However, the film is instead unbearably boring; the central romance, if one were to even call it that, lacks any real charm because neither Emily Blunt nor Jamie Dornan have any real chemistry with each other, and their dialogue is so hackneyed that not even talented actors like these two can make them sound plausible. Because there’s nothing to make you want to see these two people end up together, and with the lack of anything else interesting to hold it together, you’re left watching nothing except pretty imagery and nothing else, and even that can become monotonous after a point. It’s a story that leaves you without any reason to care about anybody or anything, no matter how many pratfalls Dornan can squeeze into his screen time (and surprisingly, there’s a far few of them), and its idea of tone is akin to farting at a funeral; straight after an odd running gag about Dornan’s character proposing to a donkey, there’s a dramatic death scene that is supposed to tug at your heartstrings, yet the impact is completely undone by the uneven pacing and random editing.
Then, there’s the big reveal at the end which most critics and audiences have latched onto, even more than the bad accents from the trailer. When it comes, it is certainly out of nowhere, and certifiably ridiculous, but in terms of true WTF cinema, it’s fairly tame compared to some of the far more outlandish movies of late that have made significantly fewer waves, despite being a lot more watchable and entertaining (Sorry to Bother You, for one). Although for a couple of minutes you are taken aback by how weird this major revelation is, it ultimately flings itself right back into the same old trite, dull territory we had been subjected to for all of the preceding minutes, and once again you’re reminded by how unentertained you’ve been throughout a majority of this film.
While it’s easy to make fun of a movie like Wild Mountain Thyme for its poor Irish accents, it’s really not a film that deserves much attention otherwise, because it’s a wildly misguided, exceedingly dull movie that does not generate enough enjoyably-bad entertainment for any viewing to be worth it. If you’re curious because of all the negative press it’s been receiving, there’s a slim chance you’ll get some kind of ironic enjoyment out of it, but for me those chances always seemed to be thin as a four-leafed clover (while we’re harping on about Irish stereotypes).
SO, TO SUM UP…
Wild Mountain Thyme has fatal flaws that extend way beyond its well-publicised bad Irish accents, in a film that presents a laughably romanticised vision of Ireland that conforms to pandering stereotypes, and centres around a romance so unengaging it renders everything else about the film, including its ridiculous twist, utterly worthless.