Film review The Secret Garden
PUBLISHED: 10:40 14 October 2020 | UPDATED: 10:40 14 October 2020
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Unflinchingly faithful version of Frances Hodgson Burnett’s classic children’s novel is a magical and gothic meditation on grief but central performances fail to compel
I’ve never read Frances Hodgson Burnett’s classic children novel, but what immediately struck me about this version is that it is faithful; mercilessly, brutally, unflinchingly faithful.
Because if it wasn’t, why would they change it to this? I went in expecting a nice little children’s film and got a meditation on grief and loss, with an amputee soldier and a dog getting its paw caught in a mantrap.
In India just before the partition, a young English girl Mary (Egerickx) is struggling to survive in a deserted villa after her parents die of cholera.
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After this Empire of the Sun opening, we are whisked back to post-war Yorkshire, where she is deposited at a big gloomy mansion with cold, distant uncle (Firth) and housekeeper (Walters.)
Your heart would break for Mary if she wasn’t spoilt and entitled and obnoxious.
This takes one back to an age when children’s films were often bracing, instructive narratives and there’s not a namby-pamby moment in The Secret Garden.
It’s magical without splurging lots of CGI gloop all over the place, and gothic without being Tim Burton. But the story and the performances fail to compel.
Directed by Marc Munden. Starring Dixie Egerickx, Julie Walters, Colin Firth, Edan Hayhurst, Isis Davis, Maeve Dermody. In cinemas or on Sky Cinema. Running time: 100 mins.
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