Emily Blunt and Jamie Dornan put on their worst Irish accents in this romantic comedy from John Patrick Shanley.
Coming back to direct his first feature film since 2008’s Doubt, John Patrick Shanley’s return to the cinema makes a strong case against his lack of direction in Wild Mountain Thyme, which has all the charm of having to drag your drunk friend home after he’s had a bit too many at the pub. The play that this is based on, Outside Mullingar, is something he also wrote that has an air of longing for one’s true love that had a gentleness that does not transfer to the big screen as well as Shanley thinks.
For the Hallmark and Lifetime crowd, I think you will be able to find something in the gorgeous scenery of rural Ireland and the slices of life provided within. Those looking for a little more depth to their romantic dramas should probably look to other films released this year like Words on Bathroom Walls, Happiest Season, Palm Springs, Chemical Hearts, Wander Darkly, or The Broken Hearts Gallery. Wild Mountain Thyme’s legacy, if I am allowed to predict the future, likely will thrive on the Hallmark and Lifetime crowd and people who create cult followings for movies like The Room. I’m not saying this film is as bad as The Room, but it gets pretty close at points.
One of the most significant issues of the film is the cast. In the play, Rosemary Muldoon and Anthony Reilly, two neighbors who each tend to their farmland in the Irish Midlands, are getting into their 50s but still live alone and are on the verge of losing a love that seems pre-destined, played by Debra Messing and Brian F. O’Bryne that had incredible chemistry on the Broadway stage. The two exuded the yearning and stubbornness of their relationship while leaving room for some cheekiness and nervousness about taking the steps into a romantic relationship. However, Emily Blunt and Jamie Dornan are much younger than Messing and O’Bryne, and the two frankly look nothing like farmers in the middle of Ireland. The two are in no immediate danger of losing out on love anytime soon.
Despite a decades-long grudge, Rosemary has spent all these years yearning for Anthony to love her for all of her days. It’s one of the many times the film asks us to go along with it and pretend like any of this makes a lick of sense.
From childhood up to now, Anthony has spent his life in constant agony. His childhood sweetheart humiliated him for getting pollen on his nose, and his father Tony (Christopher Walken) refuses to acknowledge all the hard work he’s done on the farm, going so far as to state that he couldn’t possibly be a Reilly due to how much he fishes (something the Kellys do).
Thankfully, this father-son relationship does well to distract us from the romance that’s supposedly budding in the background. Walken and Dornan play it straight, and there’s a certain air of tension anytime the two are onscreen. If there’s a highlight of the film, it’s these two when they’re butting heads, saying things they don’t mean, and hurting one another in the process.
When we do eventually get to the romance, the chemistry is awkward between Blunt and Dornan. The cinematography and dialogue used within is supposedly playful banter but comes off as two people slinging insults at each other for no real reason other than to make the other person react.
Blunt seems to always be on edge here, while Dornan is letting his guard down quite a bit. By the time Blunt finally demands answers for why he hasn’t made a move on her, I was already ready for the film to roll credits at any moment.
To tell the truth, I was ready for the credits to roll every time I heard quotes like “You are not a girl. You’re a queen!” or “Jesus. I couldn’t see color after me Ma died.” It’s strange because this is the same person who directed the wonderfully written play, and absolutely none of that same time and care is felt here.
Furthermore, the accents in this film are outrageous. I do not know if Christopher Walken or any of the cast members took any voice coaching sessions, but it was desperately needed here. Walken’s Irish accent comes off as though he’s either got something lodged in his throat or a very obvious wink at the audience, taking the audience out of the film. It only gets worse throughout the film, and when Walken is called to be emotional in what is an incredibly gripping scene, it feels like Dornan is the only one putting effort into the performance.
If you’re looking for a new romantic drama to watch on a Friday night, I cannot recommend this film to you in good conscience. It truly hurts to say this, as I do not like to give low scores or not recommend something. It’s not in my nature. However, John Patrick Shanley’s direction drags down the film rather than lifting it up.
Wild Mountain Thyme will be available in theaters and on-demand this Friday.