Wild Mountain Thyme: We’ll All Go Together, by David Bax
With nearly 40 years of celebrated plays and screenplays (including Moonstruck and Doubt) under his belt, John Patrick Shanley has earned himself a measure of clout. With Wild Mountain Thyme, only his third picture as director as well as screenwriter, he’s cashed it in on a great cast that includes Emily Blunt, Christopher Walken (doing an impressive Irish accent), Jon Hamm and Jamie Dornan, all of whom seem to have gladly signed on to say some of the most ridiculous things you’ll hear in a movie this year.
Dornan and Blunt play Anthony and Rosemary, who grew up on neighborhing farms and, now that their parents are both ailing, are about to inherit those adjoined lands. Or maybe not, in Anthony’s case. His father, Tony (Walken), is afraid that leaving his land to his unmarried son equates to leaving it in the hands of his late wife’s reportedly crazy family. To keep it on his side, he’s considering naming his brother’s American son, Adam (Hamm), the heir. Both Anthony and Adam are aware that being married would increase their chances and both of them also happen to have noticed that Rosemary is single and right there.
Putting it all into a few sentences like that makes Wild Mountain Thyme out to be more straightforward and coherent a drama that it actually is. Really, the whole movie is just a receptacle for Shanley’s overwritten dialogue, some of it beautiful, some of it embarrassing, all of it better loved by its creator than any of his characters. There are self-consciously poetic exchanges (“Where do we go when we die? The sky?” “The ground.” “Then what’s the sky for?” “The sky’s for now.”) and there are soliloquys delivered to farm animals (which makes as much sense as directing them at anyone else when the words are an end in themselves). It’s not, in the way we usually mean it, “good” but it’s often wildly entertaining and kept pace with by Amelia Warner’s over-the-top score.
It’s also very funny, sometimes absurdly so–no surprise from the man who made Joe Versus the Volcano–like with an absolutely batty late movie declaration that I wouldn’t dare spoil. Yet it can also be quite dry; the biggest laugh the movie got out of me was from an establishing shot of a garden party on a dreary, overcast day with big umbrellas standing over each table.
Wild Mountain Thyme is at its most trying when it has to stick to the necessary story developments. Blunt is a talented actor but it’s hard to imagine anyone could convincingly be so stubbornly in love with a character who has done nothing the least bit endearing, charming or even human for the entire movie.
Eventually, in its genuinely touching final moments, Wild Mountain Thyme reveals itself to be a film about generations and how the dead don’t actually die, they just cram themselves into the bodies and brains of their descendants. It’s a weird and uneven journey to that ending but that doesn’t mean it’s not one worth taking.