Wild Mountain Thyme is internally polarizing. Writer and director John Patrick Shanley adapts his own play, "Outside Mullingar," and weaves together the bizarre love story for the big screen. The film has a lot going for it, solid performances across the board, a beautiful backdrop, and enough intrigue to see the story through. Shanley is able to give life to his characters through a bit of mystery and slow-burning character development. Unfortunately, from top to bottom it seems like Wild Mountain Thyme doesn't know what it is. An inconsistent pace full of mild humor, family bonding and timeless love, it all seems to leave the movie a bit jumbled. While Shanley's latest does offer a bit of everything, it doesn't necessarily do anything extraordinarily well, and the film struggles behind its stunning Irish setting.
Tony Reilly (Christopher Walken), a widowed old Irish farmer, tells the story about his son Anthony (Jamie Dornan) and his life on the family farm. Anthony, who is adored by a neighboring woman, Rosemary (Emily Blunt), has grown up thinking that he was a little odd. He holds a secret and tells no one, the fear of being ostracized holding him back, something that has stunted the growth of his love life for years. As Tony tries to settle a minor land dispute with Rosemary's mother, Aoife (Dearbhla Molloy), Anthony struggles with the realization that his family farm may not be passed down to him. When his distant, American cousin, Adam (Jon Hamm), comes into town to check out the farm, both Anthony and Rosemary start to fear they may not be neighbors much longer.
The biggest fault in Wild Mountain Thyme is the constant aura of trying to become a timeless love epic. Whether this was done by design or by accident is a moot point; the film just seems to build toward a major payoff that ends up feeling cheap and predictable. Much of the typical movie "filler" is made more prevalent during the gaps in storytelling, and Shanley fails to string everything along in a coherent manner.
Where the movie shines is in the analysis of its characters, as each one seems fully fleshed out and interesting. Anthony is a quirky and caring, but you can just feel something nagging at him throughout. Rosemary is sweet, loyal, and internally tormented. These two characters blended with the rest of the supporting cast offer major emotional payoffs only possible through some down-to-earth acting and an inherent likability. Blunt particularly shines throughout, her performance breathing in some much-needed life and authenticity.
Wild Mountain Thyme is by no means a bad movie; it is just a confusing one. It is easy to root for these characters as they possess qualities we like to see in ourselves. No character in this movie is perfect, and that is okay. Shanley does a good job not shying away from their faults, and they help balance out these characters who are exhausted from living the right way. Although the writing and cast make this film worth watching, the shoddy direction pokes through.