Movie Review: “The Secret Garden”

   The Secret Garden is a 1993 British drama/fantasy film and it was based on the novel of the same name written by Frances Hodgson Burnett. Agnieszka Holland serves as the director of the film, whose work also includes Europa Europa, and Academy Award nominated film, In Darkness.

   The film stars Kate Maberly, Heydon Prowse, Andrew Knott, Maggie Smith, John Lynch, Irene Jacob, Colin Bruce, Laura Crossley, and Walter Sparrow. A lot of the cast isn’t extremely well known. Several have stuck to smaller movies or television, although most will know Maggie Smith as one of the most recognizable female British actresses.

    The film received exceptionally positive reviews from critics and did well at the box-office, especially when taking inflation into account.

    Like Winn-Dixie, I watched this film because it was required for the class that I am taking in Film Study, but I was definitely more intrigued this time around. I didn’t really know what to expect, and I was hoping for something a little different. Which I think the film delivers to a certain degree.

   The film follows a neglected and ignored child named Mary that loses her parents in an earthquake. Rich and snobby like her parents raised her, Mary finds it difficult to adjust to certain liberties being taken away from her. She is sent to be looked after by her uncle’s housekeepers, and soon discovers the extent of all that has changed. Luckily, it starts to look for the better when she meets a lot of new friends, including a friend named Collin. Collin and his father are important to the film as well. Collin was born prematurely after his mother died during birth, as a result, his housekeepers restrict him and keep him cooped up in the manor, hidden and exiled from the rest of society.

    The film carries a very Hallmark way of handling situations. The film stars children, it deals with much more adult-oriented subject-matter. Except it doesn’t do it with a completely realistic means. For example, certain happenings are glazed over or aren’t handed the amount of attention that you might expect. Even still, there is a lot of charm to the characters. A cartoon-wonder feels them and makes them colorful. Mary does the role of the spoiled brat and makes a warm transition to a sweet kid.

    Collin, on the other-hand, feels a little forced. In-fact, we talked about it during the Film Study, so it isn’t a matter of me being cynical. It seemed like Mary slowly and organically made the transition while Collin went from fits of rage and fear to smiling at every conceivable moment. There’s a certain justification to that. I mean, if you look at it as him finally seeing the world, but I feel like it was a little over-the-top.

    Besides that, the way that they implemented the ‘magic’ elements into it were something to be desired. Particularly, I thought the scene at the fire was absolutely unneeded and forced.

    Thankfully, the film boasts enough likeability between characters and intriguing enough of a story that it can still be enjoyed and appreciated as having a certain innocence. The best aspect of the film is definitely the musical score and how it is shot. They did extremely well at the set-design while the music helped channel certain emotions very well. The shots of the animals were well-done and nice to see, and I appreciate how they were shown in a way that didn’t seem to throw it in my face.

    In conclusion, the film isn’t completely perfect. I would have liked to see more development for the father character, for example. Some of the acting, although mostly solid, might have been overdone. And the story itself is a little washy with  how it tackles certain serious subjects, but I liked the film.

    I liked it because it really set the tone and theme well, and the cast was charming and likeable enough to keep me invested.

    Thanks for reading…

Rating: – Decent

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