Wild Mountain Thyme, 2020.
Written and Directed by John Patrick Shanley.
Starring Jamie Dornan, Emily Blunt, Jon Hamm, Christopher Walken, Dearbhla Molloy, Jon Tenney, Danielle Ryan, Lydia McGuinness, Darragh O’Kane, and Abigail Coburn.
A pair of star-crossed lovers in Ireland get caught up in their family’s land dispute.
Wild Mountain Thyme is a romantic tale equal parts conventional, regressive, and endearingly strange. One would think John Patrick Shanley would know how to piece those elements together considering he is adapting his own stageplay (an endeavor that garnered him praise and awards recognition for Doubt). Set on a farm somewhere off in Ireland in the present day (there is so little use of technology and modern tools that you wouldn’t even know it until one of the film’s major American characters shows up in a Rolls-Royce), the focus is on Rosemary (Emily Blunt), or rather her uncomfortable obsession with living to make her neighbor (they live on the same piece of land only separated by a gate that quickly becomes an important aspect to the narrative) Anthony (the Irish Jamie Dornan, who makes everyone else look out of place) her husband. It’s not so much a crush but more so loneliness manifested into an unsettling attachment that is supposed to be romantic but just ends up making the character look defined by needing a man even if she does demonstrate independence on the farm.
The kicker is that Anthony, for a multitude of reasons (one of which is so bizarre it almost redeems the movie and makes one wish the tone was always that full-tilt quirky) is unable to confess his own feelings for Rosemary. As much as he desires her, he doesn’t even think they would be a good fit. Some of it is due to his own individual baggage whereas it’s implied that part of it is because of the relationship between his parents, specifically the lack of love his dad had for his mom.
Parental figures play a sizable part in Wild Mountain Thyme, especially given that following a childhood prologue, the story opens up right after the death of Rosemary’s father (known for venting by taking his shotgun to crows in the sky). Anthony’s father Tony (Christopher Walken of all people, who seems to be playing every scene restlessly and out of breath) is also prepping for death, only he’s not selling his land to his son. Instead, it will be going to his American nephew Adam (Jon Hamm once again serviceable he pulling off the elitist businessman character) as Tony believes his son Anthony is neither a real farmer nor real man considering he spends his days fishing and toying around with a metal detector to the land.
Rosemary’s mother Aoife (Dearbhla Molloy) is also ill with a failing body (everyone is sick in this damn movie as obstacles towards the offspring getting together hinge on loneliness and stubborn decisions from elders), which only appears to be further instilling in her to find love soon. There’s a great scene where Rosemary turns down Adam’s advances of flying her into New York and taking her to see a stage play of The Lion King; she’s a simple person that doesn’t need such grand gestures or a metropolis environment. She even throws in a nice dig at him feeling compelled to show up to a farm in a Rolls-Royce. The man doesn’t really want to own a farm, it’s just another status symbol achievement for him.
Still, there’s no surprise how any of this is going to end up. The only questions are how many old people are going to die along the way and what is it about Anthony that is truly preventing him from professing his love towards a woman that is clearly crazy about him. Albeit, crazy in ways that feel like a step backward in terms of romantic stories. For now, I will say that one or more people do die and that you won’t care anyway because it lands with no emotional resonance whatsoever.
Other eccentricities of Wild Mountain Thyme include Rosemary’s fascination with Swan Lake, making for seemingly more needle drops of the classical music than in Black Swan. Also, despite having pointless narration from Christopher Walken, there happens to be somewhat of a village idiot twisting stories into absurdity which would have at least made for an entertaining narrator that works with the offbeat vibe. Of course, the eponymous song is also performed, and will most likely be forgotten by the time the credits roll. Wild Mountain Thyme is not a bad movie per se, but it’s definitely not confident in itself to embrace its odd qualities, something that is necessary to offset its predictability and lack of strong characters.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★
Robert Kojder is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Critics Choice Association. He is also the Flickering Myth Reviews Editor. Check here for new reviews, follow my Twitter or Letterboxd, or email me at MetalGearSolid719@gmail.com