Home > Reviews > WILD MOUNTAIN THYME – Amelia Warner

WILD MOUNTAIN THYME – Amelia Warner

December 18, 2020 Leave a comment Go to comments

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Wild Mountain Thyme is an Irish-themed romantic comedy drama, written and directed by John Patrick Shanley, based on his own 2014 stage play Outside Mullingar. The film stars Emily Blunt as Rosemary Muldoon, a headstrong young woman who owns a farm in rural Ireland. Rosemary’s farm is adjacent to another one, owned by the elderly Tony Reilly (Christopher Walken) and his son Anthony (Jamie Dornan). Rosemary has been romantically interested in Anthony her entire life, but Anthony is shy, and a little ‘odd,’ and is unaware of Rosemary’s feelings for him. Not only that, Anthony continually claims how much he dislikes farming, and does not want to take over the property after his father dies. Things come to a head when Tony decides to leave the farm to Adam Kelly (John Hamm), a distant nephew in America; when Adam visits the farm he takes an immediate romantic liking to Rosemary, forcing Anthony to finally decide what he truly wants out of life.

Although the play was a success on Broadway, earning a Tony Award nomination, it was less well-received by critics in the Emerald Isle, who pointed to its stereotypical and old-fashioned portrayal of Irish culture, and dismissed it as little more than ‘blarney’. Unfortunately this has translated into criticism of the film, with special brickbats being reserved for the terrible accents sported by the leading trio (despite Dornan actually being Irish!), the overly-whimsical tone, and the truly baffling apian twist during the film’s finale. It’s a shame, because Shanley is a talented filmmaker with titles like Moonstruck, Alive, and Doubt under his belt – although, to be fair, he did also write Joe Versus the Volcano, We’re Back! A Dinosaur’s Story, and the adaptation of Michael Crichton’s Congo, so there’s that too.

Perhaps the one aspect of the film destined for acclaim is its score, by English composer Amelia Warner. For those who don’t know, Warner is a former actress who changed her career path towards music when she released a solo album in 2011 under the moniker ‘Slow Moving Millie’. She made her low-key film music debut in 2016 scoring the indie drama Mam, but then made people really sit up and take notice with her score for Mary Shelley in 2017, for which she was nominated for Discovery of the Year at the World Soundtrack Awards, and won the Breakthrough Composer of the Year award from the IFMCA. Wild Mountain Thyme is essentially her sophomore effort, and it shows an increased confidence and maturity in her work that is impossible to ignore. It’s a lush, beautiful, overwhelmingly romantic depiction of rural Ireland, written for a full orchestra, and featuring several regional instruments to give it a distinct Celtic flair.

In interviews Warner talks about finding the right balance and tone for the score, treading the line between comedy and drama, acknowledging the Irish setting but also not laying on the pennywhistles so much that it feels like a tourist board video. In the end, Warner eschewed the pipes entirely and wrote music for a string orchestra augmented by a band of soloists featuring accordion, clarinet, double bass, and fiddle. The resulting score is superb, moving effortlessly between drama and comedy and romance, and even going for broke with some large scale melodrama during the finale.

Much of the early part of the score is drenched in beautiful Irish romance, setting the scene and introducing the two recurring themes for Rosemary and Anthony, both of which appear in the opening cue “Welcome to Ireland”. There are some beautiful textures featuring the solo fiddle in this opening cue, dancing around and through the two main themes, which are introduced at 0:10 and 1:20 respectively, but there are also some bittersweet moments of downbeat melancholy that speak to the difficult lives they lead in this rural and isolated place, and also to the unrequited love that has followed them all their lives. “Cow Shed” is a little downcast, featuring some pretty but forlorn textures for woodwinds, harps, and a string wash. “Banished” is wryly comedic, and has a folk music lilt to the fiddle performance, and “Green Fields” offers a gentle and warmly affectionate thematic reprise, while the gorgeously sentimental “Lost” adds a piano into the color palette, and leaves a positive impression.

“Cemetery” uses the clarinet in such a prominent way that it could almost be a Jewish klezmer tune; it’s the most overtly comedic piece in the score, slithering and slinking to Warner’s woodwind melody in a sardonically amusing way. “Good to Be Home” is an upbeat jig, and “I Can’t Sell” reprises Anthony’s theme with a hauntingly powerful scope that illustrates the familial love for his home and his country in no uncertain terms, while both “Left with Two Gates” and “Find Faith” contain rich arrangements of both main themes.

The two outliers are “The Phone Call” and “Open the Shutters,” which underscore the aftermath of an argument between Rosemary and Anthony with the most driving, dramatic music of Warner’s career to date. In these cues she increases the scope of her score enormously with a vivid classical violin passage, much more prominent percussion and brass, driving rhythmic ideas, cymbal clashes, and an especially notable extended sequence that begins at 0:24 in the second of those cues which contains some truly ravishing string writing.

The penultimate cue, “Those Two,” is the romantic apex of the score, featuring stunningly beautiful statements of both main themes as the two leads finally realize their love for each other. If Warner had any reservations about scoring scenes in which her husband makes out with another woman, they certainly don’t show; in fact, the level of passionate and sweeping romance she injects is quite inspired – the music has to do the talking for these two shy, slightly introverted characters, and it expresses their feelings superbly. The conclusive “The End” revisits many of the traditional Irish instruments and rhythms from earlier in the score, and finishes things on a toe-tapping high.

Lakeshore’s album also includes “Shanley’s Delight,” a delightful jig written by Irish composer Brian Byrne, an excellent artist in his own right, and who co-produced the score with Warner. There are also two performances of the traditional song “Wild Mountain Thyme” – one solo performed by Emily Blunt, and one duet performed by Jamie Dornan and Blunt together. The song is an important plot point in the film as it relates to old Tony’s memories of his late wife; it’s pretty melody may date back to the late 1700s, but was subsequently popularized by Belfast musician Francis McPeake in the 1950s, and it has a lovely, lilting air when it is performed with the sort of emotional warmth shown here. Finally there is an original song, “I’ll Be Singing,” which was written by Warner and Shanley and is performed by the legendary Sinéad O’Connor with all the resonance and yearning she can muster in her voice.

Wild Mountain Thyme exceeded all my expectations with its beauty, authenticity, depth, and compositional scope. Anyone who may have been wondering if Amelia Warner was a flash-in-the-pan success with her score for Mary Shelley can absolutely put those reservations to rest; with this score she proves beyond doubt that she is the real deal, capable of eliciting strong feelings through her music while impressing with her orchestral and instrumental range, and I can’t wait to see where her career goes from here. At a tad over 40 minutes in total, Wild Mountain Thyme is a wonderful morsel of a score which will appeal to anyone whose romantic leanings tend to be accompanied by visions of the verdant hills and fields of the old country.

Buy the Wild Mountain Thyme soundtrack from the Movie Music UK Store

Track Listing:

  • Welcome to Ireland (3:47)
  • Cow Shed (1:48)
  • Banished (1:13)
  • Green Fields (2:15)
  • Lost (1:07)
  • Shanley’s Delight (written by Brian Byrne) (1:33)
  • Wild Mountain Thyme – Solo (written by Francis McPeake, performed by Emily Blunt) (1:45)
  • Cemetery (1:29)
  • Good to Be Home (1:32)
  • Waiting for That One (1:11)
  • I Can’t Sell (2:28)
  • Left with Two Gates (2:34)
  • Find Faith (1:03)
  • The Phone Call (1:51)
  • Open the Shutters (1:38)
  • Those Two (2:49)
  • Wild Mountain Thyme – Duet (written by Francis McPeake, performed by Jamie Dornan and Emily Blunt) (2:49)
  • I’ll Be Singing (written by Amelia Warner and John Patrick Shanley, performed by Sinéad O’Connor) (3:36)
  • The End (3:51)

Running Time: 40 minutes 29 seconds

Lakeshore Records (2020)

Music composed by Amelia Warner. Conducted by XXXX. Orchestrations by Nathan Klein. Recorded and mixed by Ciarán Byrne and Nick Taylor. Edited by XXXX. Album produced by Amelia Warner and Brian Byrne.

  1. Sarah
    December 18, 2020 at 12:04 pm

    Than You so much for this beautiful review of Amelia’s amazing score.

  2. December 27, 2020 at 2:12 pm

    I have no idea what this comment means.

  1. January 26, 2021 at 9:00 am

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