‘Wild Mountain Thyme’ Tries To Be A Trans-Species Romance And Fails

‘Wild Mountain Thyme’ Tries To Be A Trans-Species Romance And Fails

'Wild Mountain Thyme' doesn't try to dissuade us from the sense of madness we feel; instead, it says 'We’re all a little delusional, didn’t you know?'
Beth Whitehead
By

This article reveals a major plot twist spoiler.

We expect a cute rom-com in “Wild Mountain Thyme,” delivered to us by the capable hands of Emily Blunt, Jamie Dornan, and Christopher Walken. It has the aroma of a classic until we get stuck half an hour through in a plot that drips along as slow as honey and packs an even stickier aftereffect.

The late 2020 release created a sensation in the entertainment industry for its deliberately slow speed and its dramatic plot twist. The film intentionally slaps us in the face with crude accents, miscellaneous anachronisms, and an interpretation of love and identity that leaves many reviewers harboring harsh critiques.

Colorful Irish cliffs and an awkward view derived from a drone hurtling down a country lane give us our first taste of the film as Walken narrates with a brogue that sounds tacked on as an afterthought. It’s a story about a backcountry romance that starts by going nowhere. Rosemary Muldoon (Emily Blunt) is a fiery Irish lass who knows what she wants: Anthony Reilly. Anthony (Jamie Dornan) is a gentle — but a little awkward — guy next door who Rosemary has pined after since they were kids.

Now they are in their 30s and Anthony still keeps his distance, and so does his accent (the A-list cast sounds like they are desperately thinking “sound Irish!” whenever they speak — not even Emily Blunt is immune). Undaunted, Rosemary is determined to marry the aloof Anthony, inspired by her late father’s response to her despondence at being “just a girl.” She is like the white swan of “Swan Lake,” she has been told; she can do anything.

For a film all about the relationship of two people, fueled by endless skirted conversations and brief encounters, “Wild Mountain Thyme” is disappointingly flat. A few endearing scenes involve a practice proposal to a cow (which strikes a Samwise Gamgee chord somewhere) and Rosemary singing the movie’s namesake, the folksong “Wild Mountain Thyme.”

Then, Anthony’s rival, Adam (Jon Hamm), shows up. Rosemary joins Adam in New York to watch “Swan Lake,” and a love triangle ensues — “I am the white swan,” she confides to him.

She then returns home and promptly confronts Anthony about why he hasn’t proposed to her. What’s his secret? She wonders. Is he gay? When she confronts him about the latter question, he recoils, “No!” From there, the conversation derails into a shouting match. As they gesture wildly, he finally blurts out, “I’m delusional! I think I’m a bee!”

Yes, with exactly 15 minutes left in the film, he drops this shocking revelation, and they take a car ride to figure out if him thinking he’s a bee is a problem for their relationship. She then confesses she’s a white swan and they decide, you know what, bees and swans can make it work.

They kiss, they get married, and they sing “Wild Mountain Thyme,” (and now we wonder if there’s a hidden meaning to the song) and the film ends.

“Wild Mountain Thyme” satisfies just about every Irish stereotype while ultimately defying the cardinal rule of entertainment — fulfill your promises. The film promises a sweet classic romance and strings us along until the end before turning the promise upside down and dumping everything lovely and good out.

Early in the film, we see a young Anthony ask the stars, “Why did you make me so?” and stick his nose in flowers to soak up the smell. But none of this prepares us for the plot twist.

Aside from the terrible accents and an aptitude for jolting us out of the time period with 1970s cars and television but 2020s iPads and delivery vans, “Wild Mountain Thyme” takes reality, fuses it with insanity, and then calls it beauty.

Director John Patrick Shanley intended this film adaption of his play “Outside Mullingar” to be unhinged from what he finds an inhibiting sense of reality — hence the film’s mismatched time periods and clumsy accents that contribute to the subtle theme of incongruity undergirding the film.There’s all kinds of people in the world,” Shanley told Variety. “And many of them have an emotional range that’s significantly bigger than what’s considered to be real.”

In an interview with the Hollywood Reporter, actor Jamie Dornan said, “I got myself to a place where I totally believed that I was a bee.” Many considered Anthony’s illusion to be bizarre, Shanley told The Spool, while no one batted an eye at Rosemary’s. The primary difference he found was that Anthony’s illusion isolated him and caused him to withdraw in shame and fear of being loved when he shared the truth of what he was.

Only Rosemary is the woman to woo him and win his trust and fully accept him. “In a way … [Anthony] is the girl and [Rosemary] is the guy,” Shanley continued. “She’s pursuing him and he’s running [away] as fast as he can, and it’s the work of the movie to get them together.”

Not only have we swapped sexes in the traditional roles of man and womanhood, but we have abandoned humanity along the way. Identifying with an animal is not new. The film taps into the vein of subculture belonging to “furries” and “fursonas” where people take on the personality of animals they connect to in books, films, games, etc. They don’t act like animals — they are the animals, and the animals that they choose to create on their own.

I would say welcome to 2021, but we saw this in the early 2000s and saw the eve of the fandom in even the 1980s, according to Rolling Stone. It’s a form of art, furries say. A form of existence more like. Widely misunderstood, the article says, furries are not a form of sexual release but an expression.

Ultimately, “Wild Mountain Thyme” does not attempt to dissuade us of the sense of madness we feel; instead, it justifies it. The film says to be you, even if that’s a delusion. We’re all a little delusional, didn’t you know? Love accepts all and embraces all. “I’m just a girl,” she said. “Why did you make me so?” he asked. We are given humanity, and instead some choose the birds and the bees.

Beth Whitehead is a journalism major at Patrick Henry College where she fondly excuses the excess amount of coffee she drinks as an occupational hazard.

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