The chimes of spring are in the air again and we couldn’t think of a better film to welcome in springtime with the beautiful new adaptation of Frances Hodgson Burnett’s classic story The Secret Garden.
The Secret Garden tells the story of Mary Lennox (Dixie Egerickx), a prickly and unloved 10-year-old girl, born in India to wealthy British parents. When they suddenly die, she is sent back to England to live with her uncle, Archibald Craven (Academy Award® and BAFTA-winner Colin Firth) on his remote country estate deep in the Yorkshire moors. There, she begins to uncover many family secrets, particularly after meeting her sickly cousin Colin (Edan Hayhurst), who has been shut away in a wing of the house. Together, these two damaged, slightly misfit children heal each other through their discovery of a wondrous secret garden, lost in the grounds of Misselthwaite Manor – a magical place of adventure that will change their lives forever.
Considered a classic of children’s literature, director Marc Munden brings a bold sense of new life and energy into The Secret Garden and this timeless tale has never felt fresher because of it. Munden updates the story and brings it forward from its original Victorian setting to post WWII and in doing so makes it a far more grown-up and deeper story. Through this Munden can examine themes of lost innocence, guilt, healing, rejuvenation and forgiveness. As a director, Munden strikes just the right balance between both the film’s narrative and its incredibly beautiful visuals and the resulting cinematic presentation is a wonderful experience to witness.
In terms of its visual spectacle, The Secret Garden is an utterly beautiful piece of cinema to watch on the big screen. Its bold images are brought to life with exceptional skill from its talented production team and everything from cinematography to production to wardrobe works to realise the grandeur of this classic storybook tale. The film employs a beautiful palette of colours to bring the narrative to life and Munden, and his team, use this visual language to explore the magical realism that lies at the heart of The Secret Garden. There’s a gorgeous dreamlike quality present in the images of this film, and The Secret Garden is filled with a stunning Art Nouveau design aesthetic that is complemented with bright pastels including hues of pink, purple and orange and which find a perfect contrast with the film’s earthy greens and browns.
Taking on the focus of The Secret Garden is the central character of Mary Lennox and Munsdon finds an incredible future star in young actress Dixie Egerickx who shines in the film’s central role. Introduced as a rather stern and especially precocious child, Mary is orphaned quickly at the start of the film and finds her childhood cast aside from her. Left to wander the vast grounds of her uncle’s estate, she finds a way back to her childhood innocence through the discovery of its secret garden. Egerickx is exceptional in the part of Mary and has the makings of a future Cate Blanchett in her performance. She ingratiates herself in the role, and brings a considerable level of sincerity to the part, along with a grand imagination that is in keeping with the role.
Providing a key level of support in The Secret Garden is Academy Award Winning actor Colin Firth who stars as Mary’s estranged uncle and guardian Archibald Craven. As Craven, Firth is an extremely haunted man, who wanders the lonely corridors of his vast manor house beset by a deep depression and still possessed of considerable pain at the loss of his wife and the supposed illness of his son Colin. Firth’s performance is gothic in nature and is a brave one on behalf of the actor. As a performer, he’s given a run for his money thanks to the young Egerickx as Mary whose spirit is uplifted by the healing power of the secret garden and who wants to redeem her uncle and bring him back into the light. Firth’s goes on quite a journey through this film, and his path to forgiveness and healing is sure to strike a chord with audiences.
The Secret Garden is a perfect treat of a movie and audiences should flock to this one for the beauty that it gives to its audience. It is completely enchanting in every possible way and makes for a perfect watch to welcome in the spring blossoms.
Image: Studio Canal