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British diplomat Harrington Brande takes up his new post in Spain accompanied by his son Nicholas. The posting is something of a disappointment to the elder Brande who was hoping for a promotion. That his wife had left him seems to have affected his career. Nicholas sees it all as something of an adventure and soon becomes fast friends with the new gardener, Jose. As Nicholas begins to spend more time with Jose, his father takes offense and is concerned at the boy's loss of affection for him, or so he perceives. It leads him to bar Nicholas from even speaking to the gardener. As tensions mount, another servant frames Jose for theft forcing everyone to review the situation. Written by
Nicholas is a `sensitive' British pre-teen, an overprotected only son who is forced by circumstance to accompany his unfamiliar father to a new posting as Ambassador to a Spanish region.
The residential estate's handsome gardener, Jose (played by Dirk Bogarde), takes the boy under his wing, teaching him to enjoy his physicality, the beauty of nature and the joy of life itself.
Even though the father appreciates the burgeoning health and happiness in his son, he allows jealousy and internalised homophobia to determine his actions.
In a dramatic conclusion father, son and friend all prove their integrity and devotion.
Over the years, each time I've seen this film I'm amazed by its beautiful colour and enthralled the interplay of the characters. I get a greater feeling of the father as a self-loathing homosexual - but there is no evidence that this is the case. Certainly the audience must expect an accusation of paedophilia - but when Jose is accused of stealing and imprisoned, then that still gets him out of Nicholas' life.
The Spanish Gardener is, above all, a fine film about the value of `mentoring'.
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