Wild Mountain Thyme

*1/2

Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Wild Mountain Thyme
"It's often the most slender plots that make for the best scripts because they force writers to work harder, but there's no indication of anything resembling work having gone into this."

My mother had a mad uncle who hated the colour green. He said that it had the Devil in it, and this provided a fine excuse for him to avoid eating vegetables. He would have been terrified by this film. From the very beginning of the credit sequence it presents us with a landscape so saturated in green that you'll need to look away to check that your eyes are still functioning properly. This is the first indication of just how Irish it intends to be - from the hammy, overblown accents to the insufferably twee tourist ad tunes, the little overgrown cottages where our protagonists live and Hollywood-Celtic costumes that look like leftovers from Brigadoon.

It's so Irish, in fact, that it's hard to believe that it was made there and that Irish people were involved in the process. One hopes that they were well compensated. It was written and directed by a New Yorker (John Patrick Shanley, the man behind far superior works like Moonstruck and Doubt), and it makes much more sense when considered in the light of that distinctively American take on Irishness that manifests annually in St Patrick's Day parades to the acute embarrassment of proximate Emerald Isle natives. Practically the only thing missing (and it feels like a near miss) is a leprechaun. Oh, and a plot.

Copy picture

The concept, drawn for Shanley's play Outside Mullingar, is that local farming folk Anthony (Jamie Dornan) and Rosemary (Emily Blunt) are destined to be together but - and here's the clincher - haven't got round to do anything about it. Now, to be fair, it's often the most slender plots that make for the best scripts because they force writers to work harder, but there's no indication of anything resembling work having gone into this. The suggestion made by supporting characters is that it's Anthony's fault for not asking Rosemary out, or her fault for not making herself more available as if Ireland still had time for that kind of nonsense. Blunt, to her credit, gives Rosemary the kind of toughness that might well have kept her admirer in a state of fear but which makes it quite unbelievable that she wouldn't go out and get a man if she wanted him.

She does, in fact, do something close to this, but the other man vying for her attention is really only interested in her land - he's one of those seedy American capitalists out to ruin everybody's fun and had this been filmed 20 years ago he'd probably have met with ruin after having his scheming caught on camera by meddling kids (a trick that doesn't seem to work any more). That she's (briefly) impressed by him is probably down to the fact that she's never met another man around her age apart from Anthony, who has known only one other girl. But Rosemary and Anthony have a real romantic connection. Honest. It's not just a desperate connection that will shatter the moment they have any meaningful choice whatsoever. We're assured of the wonder and depth of it every ten minutes, in case we forget.

Christopher Walken provides the voiceover. His character, as we're told at the outset, is already dead. He informs us that if an Irishman dies whilst he's telling a story, you can be sure that he'll come back. Not to watch this, he won't. Sometimes the grave doesn't seem so bad.

Reviewed on: 20 Dec 2020
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A pair of star-crossed lovers in Ireland get caught up in their family's land dispute.

Director: John Patrick Shanley

Writer: John Patrick Shanley

Starring: Emily Blunt, Jamie Dornan, Jon Hamm, Christopher Walken

Year: 2020

Runtime: 102 minutes

Country: Ireland, UK

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