Wild Mountain Thyme is a wildly imbalanced ride from start to finish. It begins with scenic views of Ireland: gorgeous green meadows settling into the foreground of a serene countryside. The calmness is quickly interrupted by a voiceover from Christopher Walken’s Tony Reilly, who brings the audience into the story before abruptly announcing that he’s dead. It’s somewhat jarring and confusing amid the camera’s appreciation of the picturesque setting. Suffice it to say, John Patrick Shanley’s film gets even more jumbled after that, despite a charming performance from Emily Blunt.
Adapted from his play Outside Mullingar, Shanley’s film is convoluted and tonally inconsistent. It’s one of the most bizarre viewing experiences I’ve had this year, primarily due to the film’s failure to grasp exactly what it’s going for. It’s pretty hard to understand what you’re supposed to be feeling because Wild Mountain Thyme bounces between theatrically emotional moments to being whimsy and charismatic. There are sobering conversations about finding what you want that are thrown in as an attempt to build tension before it all ends on a clumsy, yet heartwarming, romantic note that largely feels unearned and empty.
Rosemary Muldoon (Emily Blunt) knows what (and who) she wants, encouraged by her father as a child that she could be a swan if she really believed. The someone who has caught her attention is Anthony Reilly (Jamie Dornan): a friend and neighbor who is amusingly unaware of Rosemary’s feelings. There are a few debates about who will inherit the family farm, but it never becomes a point of contention between them. Rather, it merely fuels unruly discussions between their parents, including Anthony’s father Tony, who is still alive at this stage of the film. There are bursts of poetic dialogue and sweeping romance: the kind you could get lost in if the film weren’t so chaotic. But, for all that Rosemary and Anthony are supposed to be in love, they barely interact in any meaningful way. The weird thing is, Anthony practices proposing to Rosemary so it’s clear he’s got reciprocal feelings for her.
Unfortunately, both of their emotions and the awkwardness that may develop from the sheer fact that they’re childhood friends are rarely addressed. The roadblock that stands in their way comes in the form of Adam Kelly (Jon Hamm): Anthony’s cousin and the man set to inherit the farm. His arrival from the U.S. simultaneously charms and frustrates Rosemary, who eventually decides to visit him in New York City (for only one day). Adam is everything Anthony is not, and she is drawn to his confidence and charisma. As is usually the case with a love triangle trope, Adam is there for Rosemary’s development, but Blunt and Hamm have a lot of chemistry and it’s a shame that it’s squandered.
Blunt is the standout here, bringing a beguiling, daring energy to her performance despite the clunky dialogue and occasionally disappearing Irish accent. She and Dornan also have a fair amount of chemistry that is not showcased enough since they spend a large portion of the movie apart. Walken’s casting, however, is a complete misfire and it’s difficult to understand the thought process behind his inclusion.
There’s a lot of wasted potential in Wild Mountain Thyme, exacerbated by the bewildering plot and tone. The editing is also somewhat choppy, as though there were parts of the story that were cut out. It leaves the film with large gaps that expose where things might have gone wrong. A beautiful location, a potentially tender romance, and a talented cast are unfortunately not enough to overlook the film’s rocky execution.