And we’ll all go together

To view Wild Mountain Thyme

And fill the room with laughter

Will ye go, buddy, go?

Fantasy is a surprisingly large element of Wild Mountain Thyme, a romance with bookend narration that suggests the will-they-won’t-they dynamic between two lifelong neighbors might be a tale spun by Christopher Walken’s grumpy Irish farmer. Watching its many irregularities stack up made me nostalgic for better times: one when we could all meet in a theater, watch the absurdity play out on screen, and have a good laugh about it after. The fantasy was so overwhelming that I tweaked the titular song to match, and one day, hopefully, I can sing it at someone and they can safely say yes.

As we’ve watched cinemas take blow after blow this year many have searched for their savior, but in our hand wringing, I think we’ve disregarded one of the sturdiest bastions of the theater experience: congregating to watch a movie that’s so bad it’s good. Perhaps, just maybe, the closest we’ll get to a cinema savior in 2020 is inexplicably bad, must be seen and shared and rejoiced over Wild Mountain Thyme.

Now, I could spend this entire review breaking down the many things this movie does wrong, and in a way, I will, but I’m going to twist those failures into an argument for why Wild Mountain Thyme should become a cult classic. I think it deserves it. I really do. It’s that bad.


If there’s one thing that’s key to a movie being so bad it’s good, it’s earnestness. It has to believe it’s got a purpose, that it’s worthwhile, and it has to be committed to its supposedly shattering mission wholeheartedly. Wild Mountain Thyme genuinely believes the simmering relationship between oddball Anthony (Jamie Dornan) and the patient Rosemary (Emily Blunt) is a grand romance, and it isn’t shy about it.

source: Bleecker Street Media

There’s the usual epic locales (in this case, a recurring hillside with a striking tree) and kissing in the rain, but it’s the references that let you know how great writer/director John Patrick Shanley thinks this adaptation of his own Broadway play was going to be. No joke, he drops the music from Swan Lake under his title sequence and at one point does a twist on the balcony scene from Romeo and Juliet. Those are far from the only times these legendary romances are referenced, and calling these masterpieces to mind so often, that takes swagger.

Swagger, when backed up by actual greatness, does lead to some of the most riveting, rewarding rides in cinema. But when it’s backed up by a cast with no chemistry and a plot that makes no sense, that’s when it imbues the movie with a magical dichotomy, creating such a gaping chasm between what it is and what it imagines itself to be that it practically invites you to fill it with laughter.


The “so bad it’s good” movie has to be, of course, bad, but there’s a specific kind of bad that people really relish. It can’t be boring bad, where you don’t care about the characters or where they’re going. It also can’t be mean bad, where the events are so appalling that you want to turn it off. If there’s a word for the type of bad that really sparks joy in people, I think it’s unreality, that sense that you can almost relate to what’s happening but not quite.

source: Bleecker Street Media

Once a movie crosses into uncanny valley land, you can really let go of any objections or concerns that might hold you back from having fun. The spell of a movie reflecting reality in some way is gone because what you’re watching seems like aliens or robots mimicking us (badly), not a person fundamentally and depressingly misunderstanding other humans. 

It’s not hard to imagine, when looking at Wild Mountain Thyme, how it gets to this skewed feel. I mean, Christopher Walken is playing an Irish guy, and that’s as strange a fit as you’re imagining. His performance is like someone doing a bad Walken impression, the kind where the person does generically odd instead of capturing the specifically strange cadence in which he speaks. Not that anyone else does a better Irish accent (including Dornan, who is Irish) or that this movie has any idea of what Ireland is like outside of obtrusive music, deep faith, and rainy backwaters. Shanley was clearly going for a heightened take on his ancestral home, but it goes way too far, putting the entire movie into the hilariously weird uncanny valley.

Bizarre Conceit

The clincher here, the one that really puts Wild Mountain Thyme over the top, is a plotline that I can’t give away because it would ruin one of the great cinema moments of 2020. Rest assured, though, that the payoff is worth it, and it will provide endless amounts of jokes between friends.

source: Bleecker Street Media

That truly unguessable moment, while the lynchpin to making this a candidate for “so bad it’s good” status, does come quite late in the game, and on first viewing, you may be more put off than delighted by the film’s many oddities. 

Nonsequiturs, reaction shots of Anthony’s dog, moments that I had to rewind to make sure I understood absurd character decisions, and scenes so rife with outdated dynamics that they’ll make your jaw drop are frequent enough to make even the first viewing broach the uncanny valley, but it may not be enough to overcome its broadly offensive nature (seriously, there’s something for just about everyone to take offense with here). Once you hit The Moment, though, it will be enough to color everything that came before, and any gnawing concerns you have will wash away. At least it did for me, and if that moment plays as mind-blowingly amazing to others as it did to me, it will make Wild Mountain Thyme one for the ages.

Conclusion: Wild Mountain Thyme

This movie is shockingly terrible, an abomination, and it made me want to run through the streets giggling. It’s a genuinely unusual movie that will elicit a genuinely unusual reaction, and in what has been a dampened movie year, it’s a reminder of just how amazing films can be. Amazingly bad, that is.

What do you think it takes for a movie to be so bad it’s good? What are some of your favorite terrible films? Do you think Wild Mountain Thyme qualifies? Let us know in the comments!

Wild Mountain Thyme releases in theaters and on VOD in the US on December 11th, 2020. For international release dates, click here.

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