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The Cement Garden (1993)

Not Rated  |   |  Drama  |  11 February 1994 (USA)
7.2
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Ratings: 7.2/10 from 3,372 users  
Reviews: 29 user | 16 critic

After the death of her husband, the mother of Julie, Jack, Sue and Tom begins to suffer from a mysterious illness. Aware that she is going to have to go into hospital she opens a bank ... See full summary »

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Cast

Complete credited cast:
...
Jack
...
Julie
...
Sue
Ned Birkin ...
Tom
...
Mother
Hanns Zischler ...
Father
...
Derek, Julie's Friend
Gareth Brown ...
William
...
Commander Hunt (voice)
Dick Flockhart ...
Truck Driver
Mike Clark ...
Driver's Mate
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Storyline

After the death of her husband, the mother of Julie, Jack, Sue and Tom begins to suffer from a mysterious illness. Aware that she is going to have to go into hospital she opens a bank account for the children, so that they can be financially self-sufficient and will be able to avoid being taken into care by the authorities. Unfortunately she also dies and Julie and Jack (the older, teenage children) decide to hide her body in the basement so that they can have free reign of their household. Soon Tom has taken to dressing as a girl whilst Sue has become increasingly reticent, confiding only to her diary, meanwhile Jack and Julie sense an attraction developing for each other. However Julie's new beau, Derek, threatens to unearth the many dark secrets within this family as he becomes increasingly suspicious of Jack. Written by Jagged-11

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

Love knows no limits.

Genres:

Drama

Certificate:

Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

 »
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Details

Country:

| |

Language:

Release Date:

11 February 1994 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

A cementkert  »

Filming Locations:


Box Office

Gross:

$322,975 (USA)
 »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Color:

Aspect Ratio:

1.66 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

A quote from the film (as spoken by Gainsbourg) is featured in the introduction to the 2001 Madonna song "What It Feels Like for a Girl". See more »

Goofs

After Jack stops tickling Julie, she is sitting up, then sits up again. See more »

Quotes

Commander Hunt: There is nothing ugly, I never saw an ugly thing in my life, for let the shape of an object be as they may: light, shade and perspective will always make it beautiful.
See more »

Connections

References Our Mother's House (1967) See more »

Soundtracks

Saturday Sad
Mono Pacific
(Martin G. Jowers)
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

 
A Midsummer Nightmare
25 May 2012 | by (Tunbridge Wells, England) – See all my reviews

"The Cement Garden", based upon a novella by Ian McEwan, deals with a similar theme to that of William Golding's "Lord of the Flies", namely the behaviour of children and adolescents when free of the constraints of adult behaviour. Four siblings from a working-class family - Jack, his older sister Julie, younger sister Sue and the youngest, Tom- are orphaned by the death of their mother, their father having died earlier. In order to stay together and avoid being put into the care of the local authority, they conceal their mother's death by hiding her body in a trunk, filling it with cement and leaving it in the cellar of their house.

The story takes place during a hot summer in a bleak, impoverished district of an unnamed British inner city. The children's house, a grim Modernist building, is one of the few remaining in an area marked out for redevelopment, and is surrounded either by soulless tower blocks or by derelict, rubble-strewn wasteland. Their father dies while trying to lay concrete over the garden, one of the few islands of green in the area, hence the title.

The book was published in 1978 and in many ways reflects the mood of Britain in the late seventies, a time of economic recession, of industrial unrest, of unemployment, of concern about declining public services and the condition of the inner cities. (The period also saw some of the hottest summers of recent decades). The book was also highly controversial because of the incestuous relationship which develops between Jack and Julie, something which possibly explains why it had to wait until 1993 to be adapted for the screen. Although the seventies were a period of increasing permissiveness in Britain, there was a limit to what the British Board of Film Censors would permit, and incest still seemed to be off-limits. This relationship, however, is an important part of the story; it can be seen as both the ultimate expression of family solidarity and as a conscious rejection of the taboos and conventions of the adult world, so an adaptation which omitted this relationship would not have worked.

Another controversial theme of both book and film is what might be called the confusion of gender identity. Tom, who loves to dress as a girl, is presented as a budding transvestite, and both Charlotte Gainsbourg and Andrew Robertson are here made to look remarkably androgynous; her hair is short and his long. Although their characters are named Julie and Jack, they could just as easily be Julian and Jackie.

The film was directed by Andrew Birkin, the brother of Jane and therefore Gainsbourg's uncle. (Another family member, Birkin's son Ned, was cast as Tom). Birkin is better known as a screenwriter than as a director, and this is one of only two feature films he has directed. Nevertheless, it is an accomplished piece of work, and the director is able to elicit some excellent performances from his young cast. McEwan's book, despite its desolate urban setting, is not a work of social realism. It can be seen as a modern development of the "Gothic" tradition, abandoning the supernatural elements and exotic settings beloved of Georgian and Victorian Gothic authors, but retaining their fascination with death, decay and the macabre and their emphasis on the darker side of human nature. It is a highly atmospheric piece of writing, and Birkin succeeds well in capturing its eerie, hallucinatory quality; not so much a midsummer night's dream as a midsummer nightmare. This is a film about British working-class life which stands outside the mainstream "kitchen sink" tradition. 8/10


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