Movie Review

'The Secret Garden' reboot offers a wonderful escape from reality

The beloved children's classic has been given new life in a magical movie starring Colin Firth

04 October 2020 - 00:00
Dixie Egerickx as Mary Lennox in 'The Secret Garden'.
Dixie Egerickx as Mary Lennox in 'The Secret Garden'.
Image: Empire Entertainment Africa

It's the turn of the 20th century and 10-year-old Mary Lennox's parents have died of cholera while stationed in British India. Unloved, alone in the world and as obnoxious as can be, Mary (Dixie Egerickx) is sent from the colourful Indian world she's known to live with her strange uncle at his manor house on the misty English moors.

This is the start of the classic children's story The Secret Garden, written by Frances Hodgson Burnett and published in 1911.

With a stray hound and Dickon, the young brother of a house servant as her only friends, Mary sets out to explore the estate and, led by the dog, stumbles on a high wall that encloses a miraculous place. Though it seems at first that Mary is at the centre of the novel, the true protagonist is, in fact, the magical garden of the title, which has mystical nurturing and healing powers.

As the children's moods change, the foliage changes colours, and the leaves shiver when the children shiver. The creepers climbing the walls lean down to give them footholds, and branches lean in to catch them when they fall. It is a place that brings Mary's debilitated cousin, confined to his bed by an ailment he only thinks he has, back to full health.

The 2020 reboot of this classic story stars Colin Firth as Mary's uncle Archibald Craven, a hypochondriac - haunted by the death of his wife - who negatively influences his own son's mental state.

WATCH | 'The Secret Garden' trailer.

The friendship between Mary, her sickly cousin Colin (Edan Hayhurst) and Dickon (Amir Wilson), develops through the story, which is essentially about the debilitating nature of grief and the redemption that nature can bring as the children work towards unlocking the garden's secrets.

Producer Rosie Alison paid particular attention to making the garden in the film spectacular, in contrast to the Gothic claustrophobia of the manor and moors.

"We felt the audience would be disappointed if the garden wasn't wondrous," she said. "We took a real odyssey around the UK to create the composite, including the subtropical Trebah Gardens in Cornwall with their enormous cycads, the romantic Iford Manor in Wiltshire and Bodnant Gardens in Colwyn Bay, Wales, with its overhanging yellow canopy of hanging flowers and stream with wildflowers along the bank, to name a few."

As it is in the film itself, The Secret Garden is a wonderful escape.

• 'The Secret Garden' is on at selected cinemas.


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