Film of the Week 23.10.20.

In this topsy-turvy cinema year, The Secret Garden, is another major film that was due to be released in April when the Covid crisis truck and it was delayed until August. Sky purchased the British distribution rights and has only now opened it in cinemas as well as on the Sky TV channels.

This is the fourth version of the classic children’s book by Frances Hodgson- Burnett, originally published in 1911 and set in the Edwardian era. The new film moves the time to 1947 during the partition of India where a ten -year-old girl, Mary Lennox, is orphaned when her parents die in a cholera outbreak. She is sent to stay with her uncle, Lord Archibald Craven in his gloomy mansion and estate in Yorkshire. He is a widower and has become a reclusive alcoholic.

Mary is a spoiled, impertinent child haunted by her loss and now intimidated by this strange house with noises in the night. But her discovery of an invalid cousin and an enchanted garden changes her personality and her life.

Marc Munden’s film scores in the gothic mystery of the huge mansion with ghostly overtones and the secret garden is revealed as a CGI enhanced mixture of a Peruvian jungle and English country garden with herbaceous borders to die for. Instead of the walled in overgrown garden of the book this is an expansive Kew Gardens in a constantly sunny Yorkshire.

The performances by Dixie Egerickx as Mary, Colin Firth as her uncle and Julie Walters doing her stern housekeeper act are fine and while I found the slow pace and the fabricated back story diluted the magic, this is a welcome family film to escape in. It is at the Lonsdale in Annan and will be at the RBC early next month and is on Sky Movies and Sky Now TV.