As more and more of the ‘big’ movies are pushed back for a 2021 release, Friday night movies are tending more towards the low-key. Things like this: another adaptation of Frances Hodgson Burnett’s Secret Garden.
Mary Lennox has grown up in luxury in India, but when her parents die she’s sent back to England and the estate of her bereaved uncle. Given the run of miles and miles of land butting up against the Yorkshire moors, spoiled and lonely Mary runs wild. She discovers not just the ‘secret garden’ of the title, but a sickly cousin, a friendly dog, and the gardener boy, Dickon. Cue family-friendly, gentle kinds of drama tinged with the magic of imagination.
While not a terrible movie, to be honest I found this quite disappointing, compared to either previous adaptations (not that I remember much about any) or the cosy feel-good factor of a classic childhood book.
Perhaps I’m just getting too old, but a movie with two spoiled brat kids as the leads was already on the path to winding me up. Yes, there are redemption arcs, but, oy, early film Mary needs a good smack o.O It doesn’t really help that the rest of the cast is so insignificant – perhaps an issue when you’ve cast Colin Firth and Julie Walters, amongst others. Neither has much to do, nor particularly stood out doing it.
Of course, the real focus of the film could/should be that Garden. Certainly, when the ‘magic’ elements creep in there is scope for a lot of interest. But… hmm. Little bits of it are cool, like the things blooming as the children pass. But it’s oddly done, and rather left me wondering if I was supposed to be assuming more imagination was involved. The size of the garden, for instance – it’s a bloomin’ forest. Which is fine, but adult-brain me couldn’t accept something that size could be ‘hidden’ (even in the permanent moor mists) let alone walled in – I mean, the amount of stone that would take o.O
Still, the scenery is lovely, garden and house – especially the murals – both. Alas, that was about the only thing I really liked. It wasn’t the worst movie to snooze in front of on a very tired end of week, but nothing about it stood out in a particularly positive way for me. Ymmv.
Released: 7th August 2020
Viewed: 2nd October 2020
Running time: 120 minutes
My rating: 4/10