Wild Mountain Thyme (2 stars)

Wild Mountain Thyme

Emily Blunt and Jamie Dornan play star-crossed farmers in this risible romcom

When its trailer provoked howls of ridicule in November last year for its shameless stereotypes and risible 'Oirish' accents, things really didn't look promising for romcom Wild Mountain Thyme – with even the National Leprechaun Museum chiming in on Twitter. Nevertheless, it's a project that has some promise on paper; in addition to its starry cast, it's the brainchild of Irish-American writer-director John Patrick Shanley (born and raised in America – we'll come to that), who is the Academy Award-winning screenwriter of Moonstruck and has the Oscar-nominated Doubt under his belt as director.

Unfortunately, it turns out the concerns were well-founded and Shanley's film – based on his play Outside Mullingar – is also an awful lot stranger than it seemed. Starring Emily Blunt (Oirish), Christopher Walken (Oirish) and Jamie Dornan (Northern Irish, thankfully, so making a better fist of it), it tells the story of star-crossed farmers Rosemary and Anthony (Blunt and Dornan, sporting flame-coloured tresses and sideburns respectively). The pair muddle their way toward romance against a backdrop of leafy scenery and local oddballs, overcoming such obstacles as a right-of-way dispute and a flashy American rival (Jon Hamm).

It's hard to know where to start with the film's clangers, and a lack of familiarity with Ireland does seem to blame. Blunt pouts in pristine, just-stepped-out of-the-salon, West London style, never does any farming and mangles the accent. And her character, frankly, comes across as psychotic, pursuing Dornan's Anthony (who is like a depressed Father Dougal) with a Fatal Attraction-esque zeal. The story is an utter shambles; it kills off a succession of elderly characters bizarrely at the outset, resolves key plot points too early, and fails to create any romantic tension or peril, plus with the pacing all acock things quickly begin to drag.

There's something perversely fascinating about the whole misjudged enterprise, which simultaneously holds the Irish in a weird, soft-focus reverence, whilst piling on the cliches and quirks with no apparent clue how real people live or behave, resulting in several characters coming off like simpletons. The eccentric approach very occasionally reaps rewards, it's not without decent dialogue or gags, and some of the peripheral players fare better (Dearbhla Molloy puts in an endearing, too-brief turn as Rosemary's mother Aoife). 'I don't understand you people,' complains Hamm as he casts his sneering, city-dweller eye over rural Irish life, whilst unwittingly summing up the film in a sentence.

Available to watch on premium video on demand from Fri 30 Apr.

Wild Mountain Thyme

  • 2 stars
  • 2021
  • UK
  • 1h 42min
  • 12A
  • Directed by: John Patrick Shanley
  • Written by: John Patrick Shanley
  • Cast: Emily Blunt, Jamie Dornan, Jon Hamm, Dearbhla Molloy, Christopher Walken
  • UK release: 30 April 2021

Two lovers become entangled in a vicious family land dispute.