Wild Mountain Thyme – Review

Cert – 12, Run-time – 1 hour 43 minutes, Director – John Patrick Shanley

Farmers Rosemary (Emily Blunt) and Anthony (Jamie Dornan) have known each other since childhood, however Anthony’s father’s (Christopher Walken) decision as to who he leaves his farm to could break the pair’s relationship.

Wild Mountain Time, adapted by writer-director John Patrick Shanley from his stage-play Outside Mullingar, begins as it means to go on a sentimentalists ad for the Irish Tourism Board. Beginning with shots of rural Ireland we hear a voiceover that chirpily acknowledges “welcome to Ireland”. A sentence that, when matched with the visuals, demonstrates a hopeful fairy tale-like view of the country. As the voiceover goes on we learn that we’re being spoken to by the truly shoddy accent of Tony Reilly (Christopher Walken, who looks as if he’s recovering from the shock of electrocution, confused as to how he found himself lost in this film). As he informs us in an equally cheerful manner “I’m dead” this portrait of the Emerald Isle’s countryside is revealed to be more ‘a dweam within a dweam’ than anything to be taken completely seriously.

Tony is the father of Anthony (Jamie Dornan), a dedicated farmworker who has been brought up in this environment his whole life. However, Tony is having thoughts of bequeathing his son’s wealthy American cousin Adam (Jon Hamm – one of the few cast members free to luckily use their own accent) the farm, predicting that his life is close to its end for much of his screen-time. This is poorly received by both Anthony and those on the neighbouring farm, Rosemary (Emily Blunt) and her mother Aoife (Dearbhla Molloy). Anthony and Rosemary have been friends since childhood, and while the film often pitches them as general acquaintances, or just about friends, there seems to be a bit more on at least one end of the relationship. Rosemary appears to have a potentially more romantic view for the two, although Anthony often remains oblivious to such suggestions. Carrying on blindly, talking to the donkey, in the hope of winning his father’s attention by working on the farm.

The conversation flies with romantic zingers such as “the Guinness is good”. Just one of the many hits in a screenplay that appears to imagine Ireland is a place where the romanticised language is made up of similes and metaphors, “it’s dark as tar” being one of the few early, mild, examples – with the odd “burn in hell ya sh!te horse” thrown in for good measure. Dialogue that equals the look and style of the film. One that’s set in the modern day but could very easily be a period piece, it certainly looks and feels like one. Perhaps one of the most shocking shots in the film is that of a passenger plane, it takes a couple of moments to register the fact that this exists and that the film is in fact set in the present.

All held in a film that allows it’s characters to develop through brief moments of personal dance. As they embrace their feelings in this way the world opens up, gains colour (green) and the camera speeds across the vast (green) landscapes that Ireland has to offer. Geese (not green) freely glide past the camera to express the liberty that this character has had unveiled to them. It’s the culmination of cheesy clichés that you’d expect to find in a ‘the-joke-is-its-bad’ film within a film. The likes of which have weather that magically changes depending on the situation, bucketing it down with rain in an instant if the emotional nature requires it, before clearing up just as quickly when some form of resolution arrives. This also happens in Wild Mountain Thyme.

A film that has plenty of entertaining moments, although perhaps not in the way intended; when the piece actually does seem to be aiming for laughs none arrive. Instead it’s met with a kind of awkward, stony response that contrasts with that to the seeming romantic drama that’s trying to play out. While the tone and response might be inconsistent, one thing that’s for certain is that nothing will prepare you for the sensational twist. One that, much like the plane, leaves you at something of a standstill as you have to take time to completely take in and understand what’s just happened. It almost makes everything that’s come before it worth it, and there’s certainly some amusement to be found within what precedes this moment. Unfortunately, there’s also a fair deal that isn’t so good.

A number of Wild Mountain Thyme’s Irish accents match the inauthentic vision of Ireland that it presents. It might have some amusing moments, but often not for the right reasons.

Rating: 2 out of 5.

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