The Secret Garden is a fantasy drama, starring Dixie Egerickx, Colin Firth, Amir Wilson and Julie Walters. It is based on the novel of the same title by Frances Hodgson Burnett. The director is Marc Munden.
The story begins in the tragedy of India’s Independence in 1946. Violence and mass diaspora occurs across the whole country. In a wealthy colonial family, a child called Mary Lennox witnesses the fright and despair of the disaster. To escape her reality, she tells stories to her imaginary friends in the dark. The next morning, Mary finds her mother and father missing, feeding on scraps of yesterday’s lunch to get by. Several days pass and Mary is experiencing the sadness of abandonment, as the authorities reveal to her that her mother and father have died in the revolt.
Mary is then sent to an orphanage, later adopted by her uncle, Archibald Craven who lives on a gothic country estate situated in the Yorkshire moors. Mary is put under strict rules and her freedom is limited around the colossal home. At night, she hears someone crying faintly beyond her room and begins exploring the house. She begins exploring the outdoors in the day, chasing a dog into a mysterious garden. After her discoveries in the garden, she shares the secret with Dickson, the estate’s maid’s brother. The dog Mary plays with falls into a trap and the help of the garden heals his wounds. The magical healing nature of the garden is also emotional. Mary and her cousin Colin feel the presence of their mothers who spent a lot of time in there before they passed.
As I have not read the original book, I browsed the Internet to fill in the gaps of knowledge I have missed. It appears that the book had more depth and for a 1hour and 55-minute film it is inevitably rushed and jaded. The garden does not appear that magical either. However, the core message of the novel is still present in the film. Nature can heal grief. Adults can learn a lot from their children in sparking joy in their lives. The film is easy to watch and enjoyable, although fans of the original novel may be disappointed. The visuals and acting are tasteful and embody the youthful rebellion of the film.
Overall, I believe the film is worth a watch if you like adventurous and coming-of-age films, but I do not believe it fits under the fantasy genre. The garden appears ordinary. It is not whimsical like the novel suggests. Yet, it captures the essence of overcoming and letting go of death; how people experience a spiritual awakening following periods of depression and misery, learning to embrace their inner child.
Eleni Cola – Guest Film Review