On hopes that there was a national strike of Irish Accent Coaches during the production of “Wild Mountain Thyme,” a new romance starring Emily Blunt and Jamie Dornan and now on premium digital and on-demand. It’s the only explanation why a movie, set in Ireland’s County Mayo and starring an actual Irish movie star—Dornan was born in Belfast, about 200 kilometres from where the movie takes place—could feature some of the un-ear-friendly Irish accents this side of St. Patrick’s Day party at your local Applebee’s.
Blunt plays the headstrong Rosemary Muldoon, a farmer who has been in love with the eccentric Anthony (Jamie Dornan) since they were kids. Their family farms are side-by-side, and all is harmonious, except for one thing. Rosemary’s family owns a thin ribbon of land between the road and Anthony’s farm. Every time he goes in or out, he has to unlatch and latch two sets of gates. It’s a little thing, but it’s the small stuff that grates.
Anthony’s father, Tony Reilly (Christopher Walken)—who blows a story point in his opening, “Welcome to Ireland. My name’s Tony Reilly. I’m dead,” narration—is considering selling the farm to his American money-manager nephew Adam (Jon Hamm). Not only does Anthony not want dear old dad to sell the farm but he’d also prefer Adam to keep his eyes, and hands, off Rosemary.
“Wild Mountain Thyme” is a kind-hearted movie about love will finding its way no matter how long and twisty the road. Unfortunately, a kind heart doesn’t mean it’s a good movie. I love a good misfit love story as much as the next guy but director John Patrick Shanley spends so much time creating a quirky atmosphere for his characters to inhabit, he misses the chance to make us really care about them.
Blunt, Dornan and Walken are all engaging actors and make the most of the material, but they’re stymied by a story in search of a dash of magic to make it work. And not even Dornan can make proposing to a donkey seem authentic.
Then there’s the accents. Irish accents worldwide should take out a restraining order on Walken. No question. Blunt fairs better, but only by a diphthong.
Accents aside, the movie works best in an extended two-handed scene between the leads. Shanley based the screenplay on his 2014 Broadway play “Outside Mullingar,” and a long exchange between Rosemary and Anthony as they play cat and mouse over a half bottle of Guinness, reveals the film’s theatrical roots. It’s not cinematic, but it bristles with energy and humour and emits the passion the rest of the movie lacks.
Unfortunately, it leads up to one of the most wackadoodle twists in rom com history. It’s so odd, you may forget Walken’s massacre of the accent.
“Wild Mountain Thyme” has wonderful messages about acceptance and the love of rural life—and photography that must surely have the Irish Tourist Board’s Stamp of Approval—but it is undone by its own blarney.