Wild Mountain Thyme

Director: John Patrick Shanley

Actors: Emily Blunt, Jamie Dornan, Jon Hamm

Release Date: Friday 30th April 2021

Genre(s): Drama, Romance

Running time: 102 minutes

If Irish people want to be insulted, it seems we never have to look too far for it.

Headstrong farmer Rosemary Muldoon (Emily Blunt) has her heart set on winning the love of Anthony Reilly (Jamie Dornan), her neighbour. The problem is, Anthony seems to have inherited a family curse, and remains oblivious to his beautiful admirer. Stung by the plans of his father (Christopher Walken) to sell the family farm to his American nephew (Jon Hamm), Anthony is jolted into pursuing his dreams.

It's hard to know where to begin with 'Wild Mountain Thyme'. Do you start with the accents? Yes, they're terrible. But, really, that's only scratching the surface at what makes this movie both awful and insulting in equal measure. You're not really sure how any of it exists, let alone how anyone involved in it believed in it. Worse still, how did anyone in Screen Ireland think that this was worth an investment of €280,000 and a tax credit worth somewhere in the region of anywhere between €500,000 to a million?

If Irish people want to be insulted, it seems we never have to look too far. It can be something like the current Home Secretary of the United Kingdom threatening another famine on Ireland or something a bit more benign like 'Wild Mountain Thyme'. Either way, the impact and the way we deal with it are just the same. We let it go. We laugh it off. We shrug our shoulders and tell ourselves that we know better. Yet, 'Wild Mountain Thyme' isn't even Irish. Indeed, the setting isn't Ireland. There are An Post vans seen in the background. The architecture of the houses looks familiar. It certainly rains enough in the movie for you to think it's Ireland. But this Ireland that Christopher Walken speaks of in the eye-clawing opening monologue isn't one that any Irish person can claim knowledge of.

It's an Ireland invented by and for Irish-Americans, and sold to them by tour operators and airlines. It doesn't exist anywhere else but in the imagination of the well-fed descendants of those who fled this awful place long ago. This is where 'Wild Mountain Thyme' is set. Yet, even giving it the latitude of a fairytale, it's still an absolute ball of shit. Indeed, casting Emily Blunt as the female lead tells you a lot about this movie. No self-respecting Irish actor would be caught dead mouthing some of her lines in this. Jamie Dornan, well, we all saw 'Fifty Shades of Grey'. If he can act, and that's a big IF, it's only in small parcels and usually someone else is doing the heavy lifting for him. Here, he's out on his own and his general lack of talent as an actor speaks where his lines fail him. Next, Jon Hamm. Why the fuck is Don Draper involved in any of this? Is he trying to win the Fáilte Ireland account? Is he trying to bed the Irish lass so that he can silence his demons and hide the knowledge within his soul that he stole another man's name and made nothing of it? Find out in the inevitable revival season of 'Sad Mad Men'.

Let's talk about the script and the story. You can talk all you want about 'Moonstruck', or 'Doubt', or even 'Joe Versus the Volcano', but there is no way that the same person who wrote these movies somehow ended up writing 'Wild Mountain Thyme'. John Patrick Shanley's script is the stuff of nightmares. To his credit, he's admitted that he took his inspiration from his extended family, so we have to assume he knows how people speak to one another. That said, you really wouldn't know it to listen to some of the dialogue in this. The only explanation is that Shanley, in a bid to save time and effort, had some kind of AI writing the dialogue for him that took its inputs from 'Darby O'Gill and The Little People' or one of those British magazines in the 1800s that depicted Irish people like apes.

By now, you can probably deduce that 'Wild Mountain Thyme' didn't exactly tickle us pink with its light humour or warm sense of romance and farce. If the intended audience of 'Wild Mountain Thyme' is the Irish diaspora and not the Irish themselves, it's cheating them out of an authentic story. Even allowing for broad stereotypes, the quaintness of the old country, and all of its old-world charms, 'Wild Mountain Thyme' is still utterly false. 'Fiddler on the Roof' might have been criticised by some as being "shtetl kitsch", but the Jewish American community who turned it into the cultural touchstone that it is knew it had a basis in some kind of authenticity. 'Wild Mountain Thyme' doesn't have any of that, and Irish-Americans watching it should know that.

For Irish people taking it in, 'Wild Mountain Thyme' is simply yet another insult. It's another cocktail shot named after something that killed people regularly on this island not too long ago. It's another British Tory politician threatening genocide on us for a laugh that gets forgotten in a news cycle. It's another Irish-American taking a piss against the columns of the GPO on St. Patrick's Day because he's paid €15 for a pint of Guinness. It's another engraving in 'Punch Magazine' of an Irish brigand with exaggerated features dancing at the crossroads.

Laugh all you want at it, if you like.