Oh boy. I have so many questions for John Patrick Shanley. One of them is just why? Why was that the story you wanted to tell? Remember, Shanley gave us a classic romantic comedy earlier in Moonstruck where he wrote this script and wrote and directed a rousing drama in Doubt. He is undoubtedly a talented man. His return to Rom Coms in Wild Mountain Thyme makes his other directorial excursion, Joe Versus the Volcano, seem perfectly normal by comparison. This is the strangest movie of the year that defies almost any real definition or judgment. It has to be seen to be believed. Make it what you want.
The film is a romantic comedy, although it will be difficult to describe. In short, it is a story of Irish starry cross lovers. Rosemary Muldoon (Emily Blunt) is a lively and empathetic farmer who knows what she likes, what she doesn’t and, more importantly, who she likes. Rosemary’s goal is to win the love of her neighbor Anthony Reilly (Jamie Dornan). Should be easy right? Well it’s a rom-com so of course it won’t be. The problem here is that Anthony is a strange guy who doesn’t seem to notice his not-so-secret admirer. Apparently he has inherited some kind of family curse and has a secret that he keeps near the vest so he can never see what is right in front of his eyes. When his father Tony Reilly (Christopher Walken) describes in detail plans to sell the family farm to his American nephew Adam (Jon Hamm), who hands over his son, Anthony is eventually brought to realize his dreams. Adam, who has eyes for Rosemary, and Rosemary, considering the possibility that someone who woos them, rather than the other way around, might be appealing, gives him an added incentive. Then we find out Anthony’s secret and it’s … one thing. I will say no more. As mentioned earlier, John Patrick Shanley writes and directs with music by Amelia Warner and cinematography by Stephen Goldblatt. The line-up is rounded off by Clare Barrett, Dearbhla Molloy and more.
Where should I start? The tone is so wild everywhere, even before the absolute fools reveal it, it’s hard to know what Shanley is up to. The Irish eccentricities of all people are raised to around a million, which makes them almost cartoonish. The eccentric nature of romantic comedy characters is taken for granted in a movie like this, but never so mysterious. Emily Blunt is an engaging rom-com lead while Jon Hamm takes on a potentially malicious role and turns it into something interesting, although Jamie Dornan doesn’t seem sure how to argue his character. Granted, no one has been able to sell the twist, but Dornan does not succeed where Blunt, and Ham in particular, can.
Wild Mountain Thyme certainly has a sweetness that prevents it from completely misfiring. It’s just so bizarre and inappropriate that you can never get on your own wavelength. Either it had to be stranger to begin with, or it had to move away from the big reveal that made you want to make a spittoon. I’m purposely vague, but at the same time, I’m not sure I could if I had to explain the details. Yeah, it’s just so strange.
I can’t recommend Wild Mountain Thyme right now, but it’s something that has to be seen to be believed. You won’t understand and you will be stunned if someone thought it was a good idea, but it is unique. This is of course. If you’re curious enough to take a look, you will come across something as strange as it gets …
Wild Mountain Thyme is out now.
(Photos courtesy of Bleecker Street Films)