Currently playing in theaters and streaming is the new film Wild Mountain Thyme, which was written and directed by Oscar-winner John Patrick Shanley (Moonstruck) and based on his play, “Outside Mullingar.” The movie stars Emily Blunt (A Quiet Place) and Jamie Dornan (Fifty Shades of Grey) as childhood friends from neighboring Irish farms that still harbor secret feelings for each other into their adulthood. In addition to Blunt and Dornan, the film also stars Jon Hamm (Baby Driver) and Academy Award-winner Christopher Walken (The Deer Hunter). The result is a sweet and charming film with lovely performances by Blunt and Walken but it is often plagued with the same character flaws that appear in much of Shanley’s stage work.
Wild Mountain Thyme focuses on two neighboring Irish farms, one owned by widower Tom Reilly (Walken), and the other owned by widow Aoife Muldoon (Dearbhla Molloy). Aoife has already left her farm to her daughter, Rosemary (Blunt), who has been in love with Tom’s son, Anthony (Dornan), since childhood. However, while Anthony is also hopelessly in love with Rosemary, he is emotionally incapable of acting on his feelings and keeps his love for her a secret, which frustrates both Rosemary and Anthony’s father. Tom devises a plan to bring Anthony and Rosemary together and threatens to leave the farm to his American nephew, Adam Kelly (Hamm), unless Anthony marries before he dies. Tom’s plan begins to backfire when Adam visits Ireland and meets Rosemary, who he begins to have feelings for himself. Now, both Anthony and Rosemary’s love will be tested, and Anthony must choose what is most important to him, and fight for it before it is too late.
While John Patrick Shanley is a legendary playwriter and Oscar-winning screenwriter, Wild Mountain Thyme only marks his third feature film directing effort after Joe Versus the Volcano and Doubt. His latest movie is a sweet love story, but it stumbles with some of the same character issues that plague much of his stage work. Many of his leading male characters are emotionally stunted, immature, and often not that smart, which is exactly how you could describe Dornan’s Anthony. Although Dornan’s performance does not do anything to elevate the material, I would blame Shanley for the character’s shortcomings, which are frustrating in light of Blunt’s lovely performance as Rosemary, which is a better-written character. But Shanley does do a great job of shooting the majestic Irish countryside, and capturing the magic of the Irish people, especially in the funeral and local pub scenes.
Jon Hamm is adequate as Anthony’s cousin, Adam, but it is another example of a poorly written Shanley male character. He’s the antagonist just because he is an American from New York, and it’s a role that Hamm often portrays. I like Hamm a lot as an actor and think he’s better used in films like Baby Driver or Beirut, where he is playing against type, as opposed to basically playing a modern-day Don Draper. Christopher Walken is great playing the grumpy patriarch, Tom, which is one of the types of male roles that Shanley actually excels at writing. Walken’s performance is both touching and funny in parts, and the actor brings a lot of gravitas to the role. He has nice chemistry with Dornan and Blunt, as well as with Irish actress Dearbhla Molloy. However, I must mention Walken’s Irish accent. It comes in and out at best, and most of the time just sounds like Christopher Walken talking as he normally does with the occasional “R” sound rolling off his tongue. Regardless of Walken’s questionable accent, his performance is very strong and helps give the movie an extra push.
Jamie Dornan does his best with the material and is at times charming and funny, but his character is so frustrating that it is his chemistry with Blunt which brings out the best part of his performance. In fact, it’s Emily Blunt’s work as Rosemary that really shines and helps guide the film. Blunt gives a lovely, bright, silly yet deep performance that drives the audiences’ interest in the story. It’s through her unwavering love for Anthony, that we as an audience begin to see in him the same goofy charm that she has fallen in love with. In the end, Wild Mountain Thyme is a sweet yet unimpressive film that benefits from its breathtaking locations and Blunt and Walken’s strong performances but suffers from the playwriter’s own inability to translate his material adequately to the big screen as a filmmaker.