the secret garden

★★★★

director: Marc Munden (The Mark of Cain, Miranda)

starring: Dixie Egerickx, Amir Wilson, Colin Firth, and Julie Walters.

 

REVIEWER: lyall carter

An orphaned girl discovers a magical garden hidden at her strict uncle's estate.

When it comes to making quality children’s films you can’t go past Mr. David Heyman. From the Harry Potter and Fantastic Beast franchises to the gorgeous and equally glorious Paddington films, Heyman has been the most prolific and successful producer of children's live action films in the last couple of decades. And The Secret Garden is no different. This adaptation is a whimsical and joyful journey told with great beauty and depth of story and character. 

 

When a young orphan is sent to live with her uncle and his strict housekeeper in a mysterious country mansion, she discovers an enchanted garden that has long been hidden. Together with a local boy, her sick cousin and a stray dog, she explores the limitless wonderland, unlocking secrets from the past which reveal a whole new life of hope and friendship.

 

My childhood memory of the original Secret Garden film was that it was just a wee bit slow. This version is quicker paced and the children that were at the screening sat enthralled throughout. There have been some minor changes to the plot, but this helps the film be more entertaining and inviting. 

 

The contrast between the barely lit, gothic like corridors of Misselthwaite Manor and the radiant beauty of the secret garden is wonderfully portrayed in the design of both of the separate ‘worlds’. Heyman uses everything at his disposal to achieve that from production design, colour grading and even the score. Some scenes in the manor house could be a little frightening for small children. 

 

But the scenes in the garden are just glorious. There are walls and trees to climb, rivers to swim in and beautiful flowers and fields to run through. And there’s even a very Tramp looking dog too! The beauty of the garden even had me as an adult being washed in the warmth of nostalgic longing for my childhood days on the farm and just really wanting to visit the secret, magical garden and pat that dog. 

 

While Colin Firth and Julie Walters are more supporting characters in this film Firth’s pained longing for his dearly departed wife and Walters strict, no nonsense Mrs. Medlock are wonderfully given performances. Relative newcomer Dixie Egerickx leads the children acting trio that also includes Amir Wilson and Edan Hayhurst with a maturity beyond her years. Definitely an actor to watch out for in the future. 

 

A whimsical, joyous adaption of the classic novel, The Secret Garden is a magical, nostalgic film for children and adults alike.

★★★★

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The Secret Garden is available on disc and digital from all good disc and digital retailers. 

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