The accent’s on the Oirish

Emily Blunt and Jamie Dornan. Photo: supplied
Emily Blunt and Jamie Dornan. Photo: supplied


Director: John Patrick Shanley

Cast: Emily Blunt, Jamie Dornan, Jon Hamm, Dearbhla Molloy, Christopher Walken, Danielle Ryan, Barry McGovern

Rating: (PG) ★★★+


In what has to be the most enjoyable load of old tosh I’ve seen in a while, ruddy-faced Irish farmer Tony Reilly, played by an embarrassed-looking Christopher Walken (!), narrates from the dead (!) a tale of two star-crossed lovers from neighbouring farms, and offers the least realistic depiction of the Irish since The Simpsons.

Yep, this is one of those American productions, a la the atrocious Tom and Nicole vehicle Far and Away, where a bunch of foreign actors put on dodgy Oirish brogues, and the scenes are populated with quirky, oddball characters and whimsical country folk who love dancing the jig to fiddle music while drinking pints of Guinness.

So far, so terrible ... however, in adapting his Broadway play Outside Mullingar for the big screen, Oscar-winning writer-director John Patrick Shanley (Joe Versus the Volcano) gives the impression that he just might be in on the joke.

Shanley, an Irish-American playwright (who based on this has probably never been to Ireland), veers back-and-forth between earnestness and self-parody, meaning you can never really take it all that seriously.

The tonal shifts are at first a bit jarring, and it takes a while to find its rhythm, relying initially on some rather stunning aerial photography that could be straight out of a promotional tourist film.

The lovers-to-be in question are Rosemary Muldoon (Emily Blunt doing typically great work) and Tony’s son Anthony Reilly (Belfast boy Jamie Dornan struggling somewhat with a County Mayo accent). The elder Reilly is nearing the end of his days, and must decide whether to pass the farm down to his son, a lifelong bachelor with a propensity for eccentric behaviour.

The other option is to sell it to his suave American nephew Adam (Jon Hamm), who has no interest in farming but certainly has a thing for fair Irish maidens. Meanwhile, the next paddock over, Rosemary pines for Anthony, the awkward lad she grew up with, but he appears to be holding on to a dark secret that prevents him from ever making a move.

I’d hesitate to try to attach any specific genre to this, but it probably sits somewhere between romantic comedy and melodramatic weepie, working best when it hovers near the middle of these extremes, the comedy being not very funny nor the tragic bits all that sad (although I did hear the odd sniffle at my screening), yet there are individual scenes that really shine, such as Rosemary’s spontaneous, overnight trip to New York to see Swan Lake, or her attempt to seduce Anthony with two half-bottles of Ireland’s finest stout.

In the end, the talking point for many will be the ridiculous denouement, where Anthony’s secret is finally revealed. It’s so laughably stupid that I sat through the end credits with my jaw still stuck to the floor. Of course, this is a good thing. Very cautiously recommended.


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