“Wild Mountain Thyme” Is The Strangest Romantic Comedy Of 2020


Oh boy. I have so many questions for John Patrick Shanley. One of which is simply, why? Why was this the story you wanted to tell. Remember, Shanley has previously given us a classic romantic comedy in Moonstruck, penning that screenplay, as well as writing and directing a stirring drama in Doubt. He’s a talented man, no doubt. His return to rom coms, however, in Wild Mountain Thyme, makes his other directorial outing, Joe Versus the Volcano, seem perfectly normal by comparison. This is the weirdest film of the year, almost defying any real definition or verdict. It kind of has to be seen in order to be believed. Make of that what you will.

The movie is a romantic comedy, though describing this one is going to be tough. In short, it’s a tale of Irish star-crossed lovers. Rosemary Muldoon (Emily Blunt) is a feisty snd opinionated farmer who knows what she likes, what she doesn’t and more importantly, who she likes. Rosemary has her heart very much set on winning 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 fellow, seemingly oblivious to his not so secret admirer. Apparently, he’s inherited a family curse of sorts, as well as possessing a secret he keeps close to the vest, so he’s never able to see what’s right before his eyes. However, when his father Tony Reilly (Christopher Walken) details plans to sell the family farm to his American nephew Adam (Jon Hamm), passing over his son, Anthony is finally jolted into pursuing his dreams. To be sure, Adam having eyes for Rosemary, as well as Rosemary considering the possibility that someone wooing her instead of the other way around might be appealing, gives him some extra incentive. Then, we find out Anthony’s secret, and it’s…a thing. I’ll say no more. As mentioned, John Patrick Shanley writes and directs, with music from Amelia Warner, as well as cinematography by Stephen Goldblatt. Rounding out the cast are Clare Barrett, Dearbhla Molloy, and more.

Where to begin? The tone is so wildly all over the place, even before the absolutely bonkers reveal, that it’s hard to know what Shanley is going for. Everyone’s Irish eccentricities are turned up to about a million, making it almost cartoonish. The eccentric nature of romantic comedy characters is stock and trade for a movie like this, but never quite in this puzzling way. Emily Blunt is an appealing rom com lead, while Jon Hamm takes what could have been a villainous role and does something interesting with it, though Jamie Dornan seems unsure how to wrangle his character. Granted, no one could sell the twist, but Dornan doesn’t succeed where Blunt and especially Ham are able to.

Wild Mountain Thyme certainly has a sweetness to it that prevents it from being a total misfire. It’s just so bizarre and off kilter that you can never get on its wavelength. It either needed to be weirder from the get go, or veer away from the big reveal that will make you do a spit take. I’m being vague on purpose, but at the same time, if I had to explain the details of it, I’m not sure that I actually could. Yes, it’s just that strange.

Now playing, Wild Mountain Thyme isn’t something I can recommend, but it is something that sort of needs to be seen in order to be believed. You won’t understand it, and you’ll be stunned anyone thought it was a good idea, but it’s unique. That goes without saying. If you’re curious enough to take a look, you’ll be in for something about as weird as it gets…

Wild Mountain Thyme is out now.

(Photos courtesy of Bleecker Street Films)

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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