Review By Frances Winston
Directed by: John Patrick Shanley – Starring: Emily Blunt, Jamie Dornan, Jon Hamm, Dearbhla Molloy, Christopher Walken
Available on VOD Now!
I don’t usually start a review like this, but if you are Irish, and don’t want your blood to boil, then avoid this film like the plague. Treat it like a Coronovirus super-spreader, that you don’t even want to be in vicinity of, because this is Paddywhackery on an astonishing level. Even the truly awful Chasing Leprechauns was less patronising than this movie.
Like I said, I never start a review like this. And if you’re familiar with my work, you know this. But it is that bad and that offensive. On the plus side, writer director, Shanley didn’t make it for the Irish, telling the Irish Independent last December: “No good will come from trying to get the Irish to love you.”
“I told Emily (Blunt) when we first talked about this project: ‘I’m not making this movie for the Irish’.”
And in the same interview, the poor dear also compared himself to John Millington Synge and Frank McCourt, claiming that their works drew criticism for their depiction of Ireland as impoverished, and its people as primitive and violent. So before I even tell you what this is about, I think you can pretty much gauge the disdain that he judges our nation with. Yet, ironically, this film isn’t parody, and he is serious!
For those of you who are remotely interested in watching some of the worst Irish accents ever committed to screen, telling a ridiculous and farcical story, here’s the tea. Rosemary (Blunt) who is described as “headstrong farmer” in the official synopsis (so she’s Biddy from Glenroe, if Biddy looked like a model, and had a terrible accent, and knew nothing about farming), is infatuated with her neighbour, Anthony (Dornan) who is oblivious to her charms, which of course makes her want him more.
So enter his American cousin, Adam (Hamm) who makes his intentions towards her clear, as he arrives in Ireland to look into taking over Anthony’s family farm. Fast forward to lots of ‘hilarious’ confusions, un-cure meet cutes, culture clashes, the shortest ever trip from Ireland to New York in history, a ridiculous notion that you can get to Dublin Airport in an hour from Mullingar, and the most hackneyed stereotyping you will have seen in a long time.
Have I sold it to you yet? Wait, there’s more.
Every single solitary accent is appalling. On a scale of one to Tom Cruise in Far and Away, it’s an eleven. I was particularly astonished that Dornan’s accent was so bad, since he actually is Irish. Walken dials it in, and awful doesn’t begin to describe his attempts at the accent. And Blunt actually looks completely unconvinced throughout.
To be fair, apparently the actors aren’t to blame for the accents. Shanley again takes credit for that, telling Variety in December 2020 that no one would understand the characters if they sounded exactly like his relatives spoke, and said: “You have to make the accent more accessible to a global audience”. I mean Colin Farrell and Michael Fassbender have no problem being understood globally, but you do you John!
So I think you can gather that I hated this. I’m not even going to try and defend it. I always, always try and find something redeeming in even the most awful film, but nothing works here. And I was personally deeply offended by the depiction of Ireland. If you made a film like this about any other race or nation, you would be cancelled. Yes, it is that offensive.
Shanley’s parents are Irish, and if these are the stories they told him of his homeland, they should, quite frankly, be ashamed. To be fair, I lay the blame for all this film’s failings directly at his feet. It is based on his play, Outside Mullingar, and seems to have been a total vanity project for him.
So as I said, avoid, avoid, avoid. But if you really must watch it, make sure you’ve booked some therapy afterwards, as you will probably start questioning your cultural identity.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to run out the back to milk a cow, while ensuring I pick a few potatoes for dinner on the way, and I’ll have a chat with a leprechaun while I’m at it. Because that is obviously the real Ireland, as Shanley sees it.