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Wild Mountain Thyme


‘…Any film in which a central character confesses to his attraction to the state of being a honey bee is aiming for something other than kitchen-sink naturalism…’

What’s the point of reviewing? Isn’t it enough to know that a film is 71 percent good? Maybe you  look beyond numbers to inform your judgement about what to watch, or to confirm or deny what you felt on first viewing. I’m a fan of John Patrick Shanley, a playwright who scored big with his screenplay for Moonstruck back in the 80’s, and was keen to see his latest. Checking names, spellings and details is the job of the reviewer, but reading the vitriolic reaction to Wild Mountain Thyme elsewhere made me question my own sanity; did I see the same film as everyone else?

Shanley has risked being pigeonholed for whimsy, although if you’ve seen plays like The Big Funk or Doubt, filmed with Meryl Streep, you’ll know he’s got more in his locker. An Irish American, Shanley is wont to sentimentalise his homeland, and so Wild Mountain Thyme, which takes its name from a famous lament, is the tale of two lovers who can’t quite get together. Shanley wrote this as a play, called Outside Mulligar, some time ago, and has managed to attract a grade-A cast; Emily Blunt plays Rosemary, the spiky, acerbic girl who has the eye of the lumpen Anthony (Jamie Dornan). Anthony’s father Tony, played by Christopher Walken, indicates that he might pass the family farm to his other son, NYC boy Adam (Jon Hamm), forcing Anthony to plan some tentative overtures to his childhood sweetheart. Will the course of true love run true?

Wild Mountain Thyme sees Shanley return to the romantic, comic feel of Moonstruck, where lovers are bound by their difficulties in articulating their feelings, and has some of the wacky feel of his script for fondly remembered Tom Hanks/Meg Ryan vehicle Joe vs the Volcano. If the country-loving characters spoke authentically, there’d need subtitles, so it’s as well that the cast are so familiar and their elocution so clear. If you want to spend 100 minutes carping about accents, you’re missing the point; any film in which a central character confesses to his attraction to the state of being a honey bee is aiming for something other than kitchen-sink naturalism. Shanley’s pulled this off before, and he does so again; Blunt and Dornan revel in their rich, amusingly florid dialogue, and Walken is a marvel as he captures to spirit of a man on his way out, but with a few things to fix before he goes.

Wild Mountain Thyme is not for critics, awards juries or sensation seekers; this is an entertaining, deliberately funny play, thoughtfully opened out and played with spirit. For those who can dig the pawky good humour, the rough-edged characters and the surreal humour of the Irish, then Wild Mountain Thyme should come drifting down from the mountains like sweet manna from heaven or old-school Hollywood moonshine.



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    • I don’t even think the accents are particularly bad, I’m just reflecting the criticism I’ve seen…

  1. After I was finished watching WMT, I still hadn’t decided what I thought about it. I certainly didn’t hate it, and I really didn’t care that the accents weren’t authentic (that’s just not the kind of thing I get twisted up about). It wasn’t at all what I was expecting (having gone into mostly cold but for the trailer.) I was expecting a much more conventional sentimental romantic comedy–something more along the lines of Crazy Rich Asian, the Irish version. This wasn’t that.

    I had to sleep on it, then sleep on it again. I found parts of this film quite moving–so many poignant moments of grief for lost spouses and parents. It got me chocked up, and was quite sentimental in its way. I’ve come to the idea that this is really a film about loneliness. These two already lonely people become lonelier as the film goes on and they lose more people they love and still cannot connect to the one they love most.

    The reveal of why Anthony cannot connect–which I won’t spoil–threw me. That’s what I needed to ponder and decide upon. I’ve taken it as sort of a metaphor (that might not be the right word) — but I like the idea that not every lonely eccentric is hiding some deep dark secret. We’re often simply afraid to show our vulnerable selves to another person, and why shouldn’t we be?

    The whole film is worth watching for the scene when Rosemary finally drags the truth out of him.

    So it’s kept me thinking for 2 days, and that’s got to count for something. Also, I appreciate that it’s something different–not another superhero movie, raunchy comedy,or action flick (all of which I like, but my biggest complaint about today’s movies is lack of variety).

    And mostly, I just really, really, really want that pair of brown leather lace up boots that Emily Blunt was wearing 😉

    • I think a film about loneliness is right. Anthony’s confession, strange as it is, reflects the kind of loopy, tortured thinking and performance that Nic Cage gives in Moonstruck. These people aren’t tied in knots, they’ve been tied in knots for ages, and there’s no immediate chance of their getting back to normal. But it’s not a twee rom-com, not a hard-sell of Ireland in the way that Crazy Rich Asians feels like a slick infomercial. It’s jagged in places, and the characters and their problems are complicated. Leaving the boots aside, I think this is a proper film, not a spin-off or an advert, but an idiosyncratic film about how complicated life and love can be.

      Thanks for your thoughts, keen to hear what other people think, obviously I’m out of line with most of society!

  2. Does the 2021-ish font add to the movie and did they eat any Burger King in it, or not? Seriously though, seems somewhat of a timeless movie, rich and lush with dialog. Would you say dialog is the main action of the movie, 10? Thanks for another heads up on these films that roll out like potatoes. 🤠

  3. I was on the fence regarding watching, having read this was the Irish version of Same Time, Next Year meshed with a Renee Zellweger movie whose name escapes me. It wasn’t that as all, as your review admirably points out. The fae Irish accents remind me of my g’dads, who arrived in US in his adolescent years and adapted a Philly’esque argot with Irish and Scottish roots. What made me give it a try was affection for Moonstruck. I wasn’t disappointed.

    • Yup, and this is no more a tale of everyday Irish folk than Moonstruck is about ordinary New Yorkers. These people are meant to be eccentrics, and anyone who lives in the country, old or otherwise, will recognise the truth behind them. I’m fed up with people being offended, on my behalf, by stuff that simply isn’t offensive at all. Thanks for your voice of reason, as ever.

  4. I’m watching tonight, so I’m going to hold off reading your review…this is one I want to go into with a fresh mind. I’m excited to see it! I’ll be back later to read your thoughts and offer my own.

  5. I am watching this tonight so I’m not going to read your review until after I view it myself…very excited for this one. I’ll be back with my thoughts after viewing!

  6. I don’t see myself ever watching this. Not out of dislike or any strong feeling, but simply because nothing here sounds attractive enough to get me to spend the time on it.

    I liked Blunt in both Edge of Tomorrow and Looper (even though I didn’t like the movie Looper) so her being in this gives it a chance. But even if it showed up on Prime for free tomorrow, would I click on it? I highly doubt it.

    • Figuratively, not literally, but could probably be sold as a Lep sequel to fans like yourself…

    • Alex, Ol’10 just informed me (on my blog) that you are actually a leprechaun. So I wanted to give you fair warning that if you try to steal my Lucky Charms, I’ll be defending them with Maximum Force!

        • I just had a 26 second glimpse into your inner psyche, Alex, and I wasn’t good. But you also mentioned this particular confectionary and the Lep in the same sentence, so it’s a yellow (warning) card each and a harsh talking to for both of you. After showing great sensitivity to issues of Irish stereotyping on my blog, I DO NOT want active discussion of Leprechauns on this blog; there are other places on the dark web where such content can be found for the broad of mind, Alex’s blog for one.

        • I did not know that! Oh Saint Leprachanous, can you teach me the ways of the Franchise? Is there a holy book I can read to understand and become Enlightened?

          I can still eat Lucky Charms though, right? Because if I have to give those up, then forget it!

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