A movie about idyllic Ireland and the trials of love and loss should be a recipe for success. However, in “Wild Mountain Thyme,” badly timed comedy rears its ugly head, thrashing through the film and trampling every tender moment shakily built by its cast.
The film centers on a young Irish woman named Rosemary Muldoon (Emily Blunt), who is desperately in love with her childhood neighbor, Anthony Reilly (Jamie Dornan). Unfortunately for her, he’s too caught up in earning ownership of his family farm from his ailing father (Christopher Walken), who insists on selling it to Anthony’s more competent American cousin, Adam (Jon Hamm).
The overall comedy style is a mix of dry humor and absurdity, but it jumps between being over the top and chuckle-inducing too frequently, ultimately rendering the movie bland. Most of the jokes feel forced and fail to land, primarily because comedic effect is unnecessary during tender scenes. It’s obvious how director John Patrick Shanley wants the film’s genre to be perceived — romantic with a touch of wit and humor — but it ends up being overly nonsensical and rather boring, increasingly feeling as if it’s a fever dream the more the plot unfolds.
While parts of the film are charming — such as Rosemary and Anthony spending time in the rain together and the touching moments between Rosemary’s mother and Anthony’s father — the majority of the film suffers from confusing transitions, disjointed flashbacks and a strange inclusion of various characters seeing themselves as animals. Adam’s arrival provides some structure to the film, and Hamm is charismatic as usual, but he alone isn’t enough to save the film.
The film grapples with death well, but the scenes could’ve been much more effective if it weren’t for their awkwardly placed humor. The depiction of Anthony’s final moments with his father — where Dornan’s and Walken’s respective acting is mostly redeeming — generates one of the sole scenes in the film where terrible gags don’t mar the moment.
The film’s drawbacks could be somewhat forgiven if the accents remotely sounded Irish, but this is where the film lacks the most. Walken’s accent is essentially nonexistent; he sounds just as he normally does but with a softer inflection. Surprisingly, Dornan’s accent also misses the mark by sounding forced, which is rather unfortunate considering he’s actually Irish.
Dornan’s efforts to embody his role are apparent, but they don’t quite uplift the film as much as they could. The role of a bumbling farmhand just doesn’t suit him. Dornan and Blunt do have decent chemistry, though Dornan carries himself throughout the film as if he’s a third wheel. Walken’s acting, however, is effortless, mostly because he’s just playing what seems to be an Irish version of himself. His blase, older dad role is an excellent match for him, and his getting into the family lore and criticism of his neighbors fits the part well — in spite of the accent.
Even with a plot as confusing as that of “Wild Mountain Thyme,” Blunt’s and Dornan’s acting still feels overwhelmingly unnatural — as if they’re trying too hard to embody their roles. The performances suffer from painful normality. Blunt is properly snarky, which is one positive factor, but she doesn’t give off the “lovestruck woman” energy that’s to be expected of her character. Following this trend of inconsistency, Blunt becomes weirdly obsessive near the end as her lifelong efforts unravel, but this development would’ve benefited the movie earlier on.
Watching “Wild Mountain Thyme” will make the viewer as frustrated as Rosemary is with Anthony’s obliviousness to her advances and as confused as Anthony’s dog is when he watches his owner’s half-witted antics. Apart from the visually appealing aspect of a star-studded cast, the film isn’t able to hold its own against its whirlwind of a plot. The few merits of “Wild Mountain Thyme” are simply not enough to stave off the dry, convoluted execution of Shanley’s screenplay.