Wild Mountain Thyme (2020) Review!!

Synopsis – A pair of star-crossed lovers in Ireland get caught up in their family’s land dispute.

My Take – Like most guys out there I too secretly enjoy simple romantic comedies, especially when it stars some of my favorite actors, however, this one is such an unexpectedly weird little film, that by the end, I couldn’t figure out what I had been subjected to for the past 102 minutes.

On paper, the film has everything going for it – a writer and director in the form of John Patrick Shanley, who won an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay for his the 1988 film Moonstruck, and scored a nomination in Best Adapted Screenplay category for Doubt (2008), likeable leads and a beautiful lush Irish setting, yet the whole time it just oscillates between being a charming little Irish rom-com to one that leans a little too far into cheesy, clichéd comedy.

Adapted from his own 2014 play Outside Mullingar, director Shanley’s film is no doubt one of the most bizarre viewing experiences I’ve had this year, primarily due to the film’s failure to grasp exactly what it’s going for. Despite the relatively short run time, it suffers from major pacing issues, a total lack of chemistry between the leads, bad accents and a lack of stakes driving the film forward.

The setting is beautiful and the final act is hilarious in some way, but that only gets you so far. There are also sobering conversations about finding what you want that are thrown in as an attempt to build tension before it all ends on a clumsy, yet heartwarming, romantic note that largely feels unearned and empty.

The story follows Rosemary Muldoon (Emily Blunt), a headstrong farmer who since childhood has set her heart on winning the love of her oddball neighbor, Anthony Reilly (Jamie Dornan). But Anthony remains oblivious to his beautiful admirer, as he believes to have inherited a secret family curse, carrying with him a ridiculous burden.

However, their feelings become the least of their problems when Tony Reilly (Christopher Walken), Anthony’s father, fearing that his son will never get married, announces his intention of selling his farm to Adam Kelly (Jon Hamm), his American nephew, in order to ensure that it stays in the family for generations. Making matters worse, his arrival from New York simultaneously charms and frustrates Rosemary, mainly as she feels drawn to his confidence and charisma, after all Adam is everything Anthony is not.

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. To say that this one is a weird film is an understatement, as is a wildly imbalanced ride from start to finish.

It begins with scenic views of Ireland, a calmness which is quickly interrupted by a voice over from Christopher Walken’s Tony Reilly, who brings the audience into the story before abruptly announcing that he’s dead. It’s somewhat jarring and confusing amid the camera’s appreciation of the picturesque setting. Suffice it to say, writer-director John Patrick Shanley’s film gets even more jumbled after that.

It’s all done in a tone of lingering mischief as though writer-director John Patrick Shanley meant it all to be a joke but somewhere in the meadow and mountains he changed his mind, making this is a love story that never needed to be told. There are bursts of poetic dialogue and sweeping romance: the kind you could get lost in if the film weren’t so chaotic.

But, for all that Rosemary and Anthony are supposed to be in love, they barely interact in any meaningful way. Even the sheer fact that both are experiencing such emotions and awkwardness as they have known each other since childhood is never addressed. The weird thing is, Anthony practices proposing to Rosemary so it’s clear he’s got reciprocal feelings for her, even though throughout the film we are told otherwise.

Surprising for a writer like Shanley who creates situations that range from delightfully quirky to insufferably and self-consciously quirky, leading up to a reveal about Anthony that is so absolutely bizarre that it’s hard to digest. And makes sense that when it was first revealed as a whispered secret from Anthony to a random woman, she laughed so hard that she fell off a wall. Plus when it is finally revealed to Rosemary, director Shanley pushes it into the background because it’s too weird to develop in any kind of meaningful way.

However, I did like one sequence, possibly one of the most hilarious romantic scene I have ever seen between two people we should want to be together. The scene where Rosemary literally bullies Jamie for a visit, then force-feeds him some beer and a sandwich, cross questions him about his feelings and hers. This is the one romantic encounter that is engaging, albeit mildly.

On a technical level, cinematographer Stephen Goldblatt take full advantage of the lush, green Irish countryside to give us some really beautiful images, and more than anything else, a sense of beauty that will linger long after you’ve completely forgotten that the film even exists.

As always performance wise, Emily Blunt manages to be standout once again. Despite being given very little to do other than pine, pout, smoke a pipe, wear long flowing dresses, and wait for a man as if it were the 1950s, Blunt brings a beguiling, daring energy to the film. Jamie Dornan also does fairly well and goes through the pratfalls the plot requires of him and gives enough emotion when Shanley’s script tries to wrench out sentimentality.

Jon Hamm does exactly what is expected from him i.e. look handsome in a suit while making a few quips here and there to woo the ladies. Dearbhla Molloy is very charming and does well with her smaller role.

However, Christopher Walken is woefully miscast here. With his distinctive speech patterns as apparent as ever, the actor is unable to disappear into the role, making it difficult to understand the thought process behind his inclusion. On the whole, ‘Wild Mountain Thyme’ is a bewildering inconsistent romantic drama that wastes its beautiful setting and talented cast.

Directed – John Patrick Shanley

Starring – Emily Blunt, Jamie Dornan, Jon Hamm

Rated – PG13

Run Time – 102 minutes

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