End explained is a recurring series in which we explore the finals, secrets and themes of interesting films and shows, both new and old. This time we’re traveling to Ireland to make sense of a poorly written rom-com by a filmmaker who really should know better. It’s time to explain Wild Mountain Thyme.
Here is the thing. The vast majority of films need no explanation. When the filmmakers are doing their job right and the viewer is paying attention to what they’re seeing, all the details and answers are displayed right on the screen. To be fair, sometimes these answers can be blunt and actually benefit from outside interpretation, but most of the time it is the viewer’s duty to simply pay attention to what he is seeing. Other times, however, a movie like Wild mountain thyme This contradicts common sense, logic, and rules of good scriptwriting in order to deliver less of a wild twist ending and more of a stupid one.
Writer / director John Patrick Shanley has enough experience with romantic comedies, both traditional (Moonstruck, 1987) and absurd (Joe Versus the Volcano, 1990) that someone who celebrates the quirk and plucking of Irish peasants should be an easy hit. He’s adapting his own piece here, but while “Outside Mullingar” may work on stage, it’s a head-scratcher of a movie that is alternately boring, silly, questionable with its accents and ultimately unforgivable. The film leaves viewers with questions: “Has nobody noticed the lack of chemistry or is they laughing in this supposed rom-com?” to “Did she just slip into a Jamaican accent?” to “who blackmailed Emily Blunt starring? “But there are no answers.
Everyone is thrilled, chatter and furrowed, about the ending of Wild Mountain Thyme – I hesitate to call it a twist – but first a quick recap of what brings our two hopeful lovers to this point.
Rosemary (Blunt) has her neighbor Anthony (Jamie Dornan) since they were little guys, but he never showed the slightest countermovement. Now that single adults still live at home with their surviving parents on their respective farms, it is clear by rom-com rules that the two are meant to be together. At least they should be, but Anthony is hiding a secret that kept them apart and threatens to do so in the future. His father (Christopher Walken, with his own Irish accent) thinks he is strange and unable to run the farm in his absence, rumors stir that he is proposing a donkey, and no woman can land him for a marriage or even a night. Add an American cousin’s threat (Jon Hamm) who comes in with the intention of claiming both the land and the woman, and the situation gets worse. What is Anthony’s problem and can love triumph over his pain ?!
From an early scene where we see him as a child and ask Mother Nature, “Why did you make me this way?” For later adult interactions, where he whispers his secret in a floating bar just to make her laugh out loud, it’s clear he’s hiding something that his little Irish community just doesn’t approve of – and if you think you know what it is, you ‘are probably wrong. Happy? Asexual? From the future? Disinterested in agriculture? Sympathetic to Protestants in the north? No Ready?
He thinks he’s a honey bee.
Go ahead, I’ll give you a second to take this in before I move on.
To reiterate, Anthony thinks he’s a honeybee. I suspect your two immediate questions (that don’t include the letters WTF) boil down to this – is there literally any clue before they are revealed in the last ten minutes, and is there anything, anything relevant to him? Is he a damn bee?
They’re far from conclusive hints, but Wild Mountain Thyme teases the reveal in a blunt way early on, starting with Anthony as a boy sniffing a flower so close he has pollen on his nose. Does it fall behind and “pollinate” some nearby plants? No, don’t be silly. We see how he catches a bee in his house and releases it into the wild, but since he is also so friendly to the farm animals that it is hardly noticeable as a special kindness to bees. At one point in the distance he saw him “talk” to the air and hit it with the oar of a boat, but it is unclear whether he is trying to murder his fellow bees? Some scenes also feature a very low hum that can range from flying nearby to a whimsical hint offered by a very drunk Shanley in the editing room.
It goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway, none of this, even from a distance, is enough to suggest to viewers that our guy thinks he’s a honeybee. This is especially the case when Anthony acts like a honeybee in the least or in the slightest. He doesn’t hum or flutter his arms, he is content to be alone instead of living in a high-energy beehive, and at no point does he even put on a striped shirt.
While Anthony’s peculiar suffering is only revealed in the waning minutes of the film – after ninety minutes of construction – two other characters are more openly identified as animal. Anthony’s long-dead uncle apparently believed he was a fish before he drowned one day, and Rosemary openly thinks she is a white swan. The former is never explored, but the latter occurs when her father comforts her broken heart as a child. He tells her that she is a white swan after being spurned by the young Anthony, and even as an adult she occasionally breaks into ballet moves from Swan Lake. Even so, Rosemary doesn’t think she’s a swan.
Is there any relevance to Anthony who thinks he is a bee? Honey or something else? Maybe some connection to Irish farmers who live in the 50s but are actually modern? Perhaps a metaphor for finding your own identity in a world full of doppelgangers? One reason to possibly tie honeybees to a purple flower, which is known as the main food source for the large blue butterfly? A thematic nod that hopefully explains why, in the final minutes of the film, Anthony sings a song in a pub where all the people who have died throughout the film take the best seats?
There is not. And so the secret of Wild Mountain Thyme lives on …