WILD MOUNTAIN THYME (2020)
Starring Emily Blunt, Jamie Dornan, Christopher Walken, Jon Hamm, Jon Tenney, Danielle Ryan, Dearbhla Molloy, Lydia McGuinness, Abigail Coburn, Darragh O’Kane, Tommy O’Neill, Clare Barrett, Don Wycherley, Anna Weekes, Barry McGovern, Michael McCormack, Rosemary Muldoon and Paige Bestington.
Screenplay by John Patrick Shanley.
Directed by John Patrick Shanley.
Distributed by Bleecker Street. 102 minutes. Rated PG-13.
John Patrick Shanley may be a legend in theatrical circles, but his on and off career as a screenwriter and filmmaker has been a bit more problematic. He started out nearly perfectly, with the critically acclaimed and popular Cher/Nicolas Cage comedy Moonstruck (1987). In the years since, he occasionally approached those heights – like his 2008 film of his controversial play Doubt, with Amy Adams, Meryl Streep, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Viola Davis.
However, more often his films have been oddball misfires, like the surreal Tom Hanks/Meg Ryan starrer Joe vs. the Volcano (1990), the Kevin Kline serial killer comedy/drama The January Man (1989) and the star-studded ensemble film Five Corners (1987). He also has occasionally sold out his talents to big-money blockbusters based on best-selling books, with very mixed results like Alive (1993)and Congo (1995).
Wild Mountain Thyme is Shanley’s first film since Doubt, and like that film, it is based on one of his plays, Outside Mullingar, which was on Broadway in 2014. And, honestly, watching the film, it feels like it would probably work on stage better than it does on the big screen.
Not that it is a bad film, it just feels more theatrical than cinematic. It’s a small, eccentric story mostly told on a small backdrop, featuring stagey dialogue and an extremely specific Irish sensibility. It is told in the modern day, and yet it feels very old-fashioned and just a tiny bit dated. However, mostly the problem is that it is the story of people who can’t quite seem to find the courage to say what they want and what they need in life; an internal conflict which works better in an intimate stage than in an expansive view of the Irish countryside.
More, specifically, Wild Mountain Thyme tells the story of two Irish farming children – Anthony (Jamie Dornan) and Rosemary (Emily Blunt) – who should by all means be a couple, if not for the fact that both are too lost in their heads and too shy to acknowledge the obvious. They live on neighboring farms. They have both been intrigued with the other since childhood. They have both grown up to be gorgeous adults. They are both lonely and have few real romantic options. They have mutual friends, family, and interests, and get along very well. They both secretly imagine marrying the other.
And yet they won’t say the damned words.
In most love stories, couples are kept apart by fate, or life, or circumstance. Here, all responsibility for their not being together falls squarely on the two people refusing to take a chance.
Which happens, I suppose, there are shy people in the world. However, as a viewing experience, it eventually becomes somewhat frustrating that these people can’t seem to see the obvious truth, and in fact they seem to actively be trying to sabotage their possibility of happy ever after.
This non-evolving relationship is happening in the midst of generational changes on the farm. Both his father – also named Anthony, but who goes by Tony (Christopher Walken) and her mother Aoife (Dearbhla Molloy) are aging and close to death. (His mother and her father are long dead.)
The parents are concerned about the family farms, particularly Tony, who fears his son will never marry and the bloodline of the homestead which has been in the family for generations will end. Therefore, he considers selling the farm and land to his slick American banker nephew Adam (Jon Hamm), who surprisingly despite being a Wall Street shark is intrigued by the idea of becoming a gentleman farmer in his homeland. Adam also sees Ireland as a place to find a sturdy, sensible wife – unlike the shallow model-types he has been dating in New York – and sets his eye on Rosemary.
Wild Mountain Thyme is a very old-fashioned piece of entertainment – it feels slightly like something by James Joyce or Eugene O’Neill – and yet it feels a little anachronistic to modern eyes. However, the acting is spot on and the Irish countryside is just gorgeous. Like the life that it portrays, the movie is a little slow moving, and as stated before the conflict is mostly the fault of the characters, however even if imperfect Wild Mountain Thyme does have much to offer for people who are intrigued by this world.
Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright ©2021 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: February 2, 2021.