We take offense, in Ireland, when the British mischaracterize our culture – 800 years worth of offense.
When our former colonial masters get the basics wrong, we see it as a deliberate act of malice. Luckily for Director John Patrick Shanley and the rest of the team involved in Wild Mountain Thyme, we’re more forgiving when our American cousins make mistakes. We know you mean it as a compliment. For that reason, the movie’s trailer received a reaction of mirth rather than one of outrage when it was released on 10 November.
Belfast-born Jamie Dornan and the extremely British Emily Blunt play star-crossed lovers Anthony Reilly and Rosemary Muldoon, who grow up on neighboring farms. You can’t make a film about Ireland without a farm. Rosemary is the picture of a ‘comely maidens dancing at the crossroad’, a done-to-death trope of Irish women on screen. The result feels more like cultural fetishization than appropriation; it’s Ireland as Americans want to picture it rather than Ireland as it is.
Everything about the couple belongs to a bygone era; in a more realistic movie about contemporary Ireland, Rosemary would be working for Google in Dublin’s docklands while Anthony tries to figure out why the girl he met on Bumble has ghosted him. Both fail in their attempts at a convincing midlands Irish accent, which is admittedly more of an embarrassment for Northern Irish Dornan.
Dublin Airport tweeted the trailer with the caption: “There’s fashion police. Grammar police. We even have airport police. Is there such a thing as accent police? If so, somebody better call ‘em. On the upside, Ireland looks nice.”
There’s fashion police
We even have airport police
Is there such a thing as accent police?
If so, somebody better call ‘em.
On the upside, Ireland looks nice. pic.twitter.com/lHrR5cWlwq
— Dublin Airport (@DublinAirport) November 10, 2020
Our police force responded. The official account of the Gardaí Síochána (Irish police) leaned into the comical accents and dialects used in the film, tweeting: “Gardaí don’t normally comment on material posted online but we are aware of a trailer involving multiple offensive accents from a Wild Mountain area of Mullingar. To be sure to be sure, an oul investigation is to be carried out.”
Sure you cant be doin that lads!
Gardaí dont normally comment on material posted online but we are aware of a trailer involving multiple offensive accents from a Wild Mountain area of Mullingar. To be sure to be sure, an oul investigation is to be carried out#WildMountainThyme pic.twitter.com/wTEoctxHQt
— Garda Info (@gardainfo) November 11, 2020
Rosemary has auburn hair, because you can’t make a film about Ireland without a redhead. She sings a sean nós (traditional Irish) song, wears knitted shawls, and speaks in a dialect I recognize only from the way my grandparents spoke. If this film was set in the 1950s, she would be a somewhat believable though still cliched character – but set in the present day as it is, Rosemary can only be seen as a parody.
Anthony prepares to propose to Rosemary by practicing his speech on a donkey. You can’t make a film about Ireland without a donkey. An old man watches him from over the wall and laughs, arguably the best moment of the trailer. Jon Hamm sweeps in at some point as a love rival, speaking in his own accent to point out how strange Ireland is and whisk Rosemary off to New York. Anthony argues with his father, a grumpy patriarchal figure played by American Christopher Walken, about inheritance, which – as we all know – is the only thing Irish people ever argue over.
The only overdone tropes missing from the trailer are a subplot related to the IRA and a scandal involving the Catholic Church, but I have high hopes they are touched on in the full-length film.
With an American writer and director, and a cast that seems to have been sourced from anywhere but the Republic of Ireland, perhaps it’s too much to ask that the film would feel authentically Irish. I might go sing a mournful Irish ballad over the sound of a tin whistle as I try to figure it out. That’s what a Hollywood Irish woman would do.
*Katie Harrington is a writer based in Galway, Ireland. She writes about pop culture, emigration, feminism, and why millennials really aren’t to blame for everything. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram.