January 27, 2021 – I like Irish films, such as “The Secret of Roan Inish,” “The Quiet Man,” “Ondine” and “Hear My Song,” and I liked this one too, even though it is a bit of a lightweight compared these others.
“Wild Mountain Thyme” is written and directed by John Patrick Shanley, a pulitzer prize-winning playwright and Oscar-winning director (“Doubt”). It is based on Shanley's own play “Outside Mullingar.”
Similar to Shanley's “Moonstruck” (1987) this film is about the funny interactions between a group of quirky characters. As critic Roger Ebert used to say, the movie is not so much about what it is about as who it is about. There is not much in the way of slapstick humor here, but the main characters are funny, quirky, eccentric and sometimes endearing.
Tony Reilly (played by Christopher Walken of “Hairspray”) is the patriarch of his family who, at age 75, is reluctant to leave his farm, to his unmarried, eccentric son, Anthony (played by Jamie Dornan of “A Private War”). The farm has been in the Reilly family for over 100 years.
Anthony is in love with beautiful, eccentric Rosemary Muldoon (Emily Blunt of “A Quiet Place”) who lives on a neighboring farm, and she is in love with Anthony, but the two remain strangely distant from each other for some reason.
Perhaps one reason these two remain apart, and unmarried, has a lot to do with Anthony's odd personality. Even Anthony's own father doesn't understand him. He says his son is crazy, too much like a Kelly, from his mother's side of the family.
When Anthony's father says that he looks and acts like a Kelly, not a Reilly, he says, “My name is Reilly. I'm a Reilly.” His father replies, “No, you're a Kelly! You take after John Kelly and that man was mad as the full moon.”
Tony declares he is going to disown his own son and sell the farm to his nephew from America, Adam (John Hamm of “Baby Driver”). Adam, who is quite wealthy, arrives in Ireland to take a look at the Reilly farm, and he has a look at Rosemary, too. He likes both.
Anthony realizes that if he doesn't act pretty quickly he is going to lose both the farm and Rosemary, but it is not just his father who thinks him crazy, he fears that he may, indeed, have the Kelly madness, and may be unfit to wed Rosemary. Anthony even tells Rosemary that the only reason he stays in Ireland is that he is mad.
Well, we know where this is going, but the movie takes its time getting there. Some probably think it takes too long to get there. Some think the reasons Anthony and Rosemary stay apart are not enough, and that is understandable, but that is the nature of romantic comedy, isn't it? This is more whimsical than most movies of this sort, more understated, atmospheric and poetic.
In order to make sense of this delicate, whimsical movie, I think it helps to quote the writer-director himself, John Patrick Shanley, who is quoted in several places on the internet about his Irish heritage:
“I'm Irish as hell: Kelly on one side, Shanley on the other. My father had been born on a farm in the Irish Midlands. He and his brothers had been shepherds there, cattle and sheep, back in the early 1920s. I grew up surrounded by brogues and Irish music, but stayed away from the old country till I was over 40. I just couldn't own being Irish.”
It looks like Shanley has now owned being Irish, and this is his ode to his family, Ireland, and perhaps the madness of the Kellys. This film features fine performances from Christopher Walken and Emily Blunt, who also does a nice job singing the title song in one scene. This film rates a B.
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