Movie Review: Emily and Chris “go brah” in John Patrick Shanley’s “Wild Mountain Thyme

Many a long, poetic scene decorates the John Patrick Shanley (“Moonstruck”) Irish romance “Wild Mountain Thyme,” just two characters talking, the way the Irish do, about “waiting” which the Irish also do.

That might explain why this light charmer starring the widely-worshipped Emily Blunt (Twitter has many a Church of St. Emily Herself congregation) never found even a hint of traction when it opened mid-pandemic.

But the novelty of her slinging an Irish accent (more or less) and the utter delight of Christopher Walken showing off his “version” of “the gift of the gab” as narrator and one of her co-stars, make this slender, ever-so-Irish romance worth tracking down.

It’s a farm fable about neighbors Rosemary (Blunt) and Anthony (Jamie Dornan, “Fifty Shades Free At Last”) who grew up next door to each other and seem destined to be together.

But he’s troubled and distracted, and she’s been in a decades-long funk over his inattention in a romantic way.

Once, when they were children, Anthony pushed Rosemary because she was bullying a cute lass who had little Anthony’s eye. At some point, his family had to sell a piece of land that was their sole access to the county road. And since that’s the very spot where Anthony pushed Rosemary, she’s sitting on it after inheriting it, making the Reillys go to the trouble of opening and closing a couple of gates just to get home after a trip to town or a visit to the pub.

Tony (Walken), Anthony’s Dad, is over that and then some. He’d too old to farm and would like to make the property more valuable by getting back that land. Because he’s determined that their farm (in Crossmolina, County Mayo, while the setting of the Shanley play this is based on was “Outside Mullingar”) not fall out of the hands of their family, which has owned it for 131 years.

And Tony is disappointed and damned tired of waiting for Anthony to get on the stick, marry and produce an heir, preferably with the woman he’s grown up with on the next farm over.

People age and grouse and die, machinations involving an American relative (Jon Hamm) play into the proceedings, and a lot of lovely sentimentally-Irish dialogue gets brushed over by Blunt, Dornan and Walken, who opens proceedings by relating that “If an Iiiiiirishman dies telling a story, you can be shore e’ll be back!”

Your affection — or tolerance — for that sort of cinematic Irish affectation should be your guide in deciding whether to see “Wild Mountain Thyme.”

There’s little Rosemary grousing, “Eeeyyye ‘ave no poorpose. I’m joost a gurrrrl, and the world is fulla gurrrls.”

Adult Rosemary is much more sanguine. “Hope is a force, and women are the salvation of the world.”

Adult Anthony muses that “Some of us don’t have joy. But we do what we must. Is a man who does what he must but gets no pleasure any less of a man?”

His Dad is sure his boy’s “no farmer…You take after John Kelly (one of his late wife’s relatives). And that man was as mad as the full moon.

As for all this “waiting” Anthony does, and Tony must do, and Rosemary foolishly persists in, Tony’s got one sentence for Anthony that lands hardest.

You’re famous all over Ireland for what goes by you.”

I love that sort of thing, to be honest. It’s a real guilty pleasure, hearing Rosemary’s mother (Dearbhla Molloy) grump “Take me home before me PACEmaker runs down to zero,” and describe her daughter’s stallion describe as “That hairse is Saaatan on fourrrrr feet!”

Blunt sings the title folk tune — beautifully — in a pub talent contest, and Hamm’s faintly-boorish American gets to be the adult in the room, wondering why the Irish “accept these crazy things” and noting the emotional cost of the sort of romantic idealism that Hollywood and John Patrick Shanley Himself traffic in.

“The kind of dreams kids have make adults miserable.”

“Wild Mountain Thyme” is a mixed bag of a romance. The Irish may not take to it and its cloying speeches delivered in “Quiet Man” accents. But it’s not for natives or native speakers, is it? It’s for the diaspora and those of us who look to our fantasy ideal of the Irish to provide a dream — wistful, melancholy, hopeful and “waiting.”

Rating: PG-13 for some thematic elements and suggestive comments

Cast: Emily Blunt, Jamie Dornan, Christopher Walken, Dearbhla Molloy and Jon Hamm

Credits: Scripted and directed by John Patrick Shanley, based on his play. A Bleecker St. release, now on assorted streaming platforms.

Running time: 1:42

About Roger Moore

Movie Critic, formerly with McClatchy-Tribune News Service, Orlando Sentinel, published in Spin Magazine, The World and now published here, Orlando Magazine, Autoweek Magazine
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