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BWW Review: WILD MOUNTAIN THYME is Enchanting Escapism

The film is both a love letter to Ireland and fairy tale romance.

BWW Review: WILD MOUNTAIN THYME is Enchanting Escapism

WILD MOUNTAIN THYME, a film you've likely not heard of, is truly one of 2020's most beautifully lyrical and heartwarming romances. Adapted from John Patrick Shanely's 2014 hit Broadway play OUTSIDE MULLINGAR, the film is both a love letter to Ireland and fairy tale romance, featuring enchanting performances from Emily Blunt, Jamie Dornan, Christopher Walken, Dearbhla Molloy, and Jon Hamm.

OUTSIDE MULLINGAR was hailed as Shanley's "finest work since DOUBT" (New York Times), and many critics praised its gorgeous elevated language. The film script, adapted from the play by Shanley himself, keeps that element perfectly intact as it transposes the story from stage to screen. Fans of the Broadway and other stage productions will notice that, in the adaptation process, Shanley has added speaking characters, altered the order of events, and expanded the setting into the Irish countryside and beyond. Yet, none of these changes harm the storytelling. Using the film idiom, they all work together to masterfully draw audiences into the story and ensure that we genuinely care about these characters.

BWW Review: WILD MOUNTAIN THYME is Enchanting Escapism
Credit: Kerry Brown / Bleecker Street

Every good fairy tale romance needs a pair of engaging star-crossed lovers, and Blunt and Dornan exceed expectations. Growing up on neighboring farms, Blunt's Rosemary Muldoon and Dornan's Anthony Reilly are destined to be a couple. However, he is shy and socially awkward, and she has been holding onto a grudge against Anthony since he pushed her down when she was a young girl. As middle-aged adults, another wrinkle gets in the way of their romance. There is quarrel brewing over a small piece of land that was sold by the Reillys to the Muldoons that ultimately devalues the Reilly's property.

Through rain-drenched scenes, complete with grey and dappled lighting, both Blunt and Dornan wax poetic on love, farm life, what destiny holds for them, and their individual purposes. Blunt's Rosemary picks on her suitor-to-be's odd behaviors, finding a strange delight in his obsessive use of a metal detector on her fields, while Dornan's Reilly, out of an abundance of love for Rosemary, seems to enjoy telling her that she is not meant for Ireland. Instead, he reiterates that she is worthy and deserving of so much more. Acting with tangible sincerity, Blunt and Dornan ensure their characters' clashes tickle the ribs until they melt our hearts through softening their approaches to one another, letting their concealed loves for one another blossom.

BWW Review: WILD MOUNTAIN THYME is Enchanting Escapism
Credit: Kerry Brown / Bleecker Street

Walken deftly crafts an instantly likeable narrator with the stern but kind Tony Reilly (the father to Dornan's Anthony). Reprising her role from the Broadway production, Molloy's charismatic Aoife Muldoon (the mother to Blunt's Rosemary) is a no-nonsense sage. Together, Walken and Molloy embody everything audiences have come to know, love, and expect from Irish characters on stage. The pair, despite their mild-mannered feud, are quick to discuss lost loves, deaths, and other gloomy subjects with all the humor lived-in experience can offer. They do not fear death, for neither is a stranger to it. Instead, they, on their own accord, walk towards their individual deaths more-or-less telling death when it may take them. Additionally, Jon Hamm's Adam Reilly adds tension to the romantic plot by not only being a meddling third in a love triangle, but serving as a wonderful foil to his cousin, Dornan's Anthony.

As director of photography, Stephen Goldblatt expertly captures the lush beauty of the Irish countryside, and whisks audiences away to the verdant hills and mountains of County Mayo. With all the trappings of modern convenience present in the film, such as reading magazines on a tablet on an airplane, the film's insistence on showcasing its setting through sweeping shots filmed via drone, it is impossible not get lost in the whimsy of the romantic plot and the reverence for the land on which it takes place. In one stirring moment, Anthony says, "There's the green fields, and the animals living off them. And over that there's us, living off the animals. And over that there's that which tends to us and lives off us. Whatever that is, it holds me here." Because of Goldblatt's filmic compositions, it holds us there too.

As can be expected with any fairy tale or romantic comedy, the characters are all painted with broad strokes. The characters in WILD MOUNTAIN THYME definitely lack the nuance and subtlety of those Shanley crafted for Doubt. But, that doesn't make this light-hearted film any less enjoyable. From beginning to end, it's a charming foray into fantasy, and it serves as a wonderful diversion from our current woes.

WILD MOUNTAIN THYME premieres Friday, December 11 in theaters and on demand, via outlets such as FandangoNOW and Redbox.



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From This Author David Clarke