The main character Mary Lennox "Dixie Egerickx" is a spoiled 10-year-old girl of rich parents who grew up in India. After everyone in her family dies from cholera, Mary is sent to live in Misselthwaite manor in Yorkshire with her uncle Archibald Craven "Colin Firth" and the housekeeper Mrs. Medlock "Julie Walters". Mary discovers that the house holds many secrets. There she finds a key that leads her to a garden held locked for years by her uncle after the death of his wife. Soon she finds a room in the manor where her sick cousin Colin "Edan Hayhurst" has spend his entire life in his bed, completely unable to walk. But with the help of her new friend Dickon "Amir Wilson" the children manage to bring the garden back to life. In the garden Colin learns to walk and he becomes a healthy and happy young boy. When Lord Craven one day sees the children playing in the garden, he is amazed by the sight of his son walking. He feels joy for the first time since years.Written by
The Secret Garden
Written by Aurora Aksnes
Performed by Aurora Aksnes (as Aurora)
Courtesy of Decca Records
Under license from Universal Music Operations Ltd.
(c) Budde Music See more »
A bright, colourful looking update to a classic children's novel that may or may not win over modern audiences
The Secret Garden is a fantasy drama film based on the novel of the same name by Frances Hodgson Burnett. Starring Colin Firth and Julie Walters, it is a bright, colourful looking update to a classic children's novel that may or may not win over modern audiences.
In 1947, young Mary Lennox (Dixie Egerickx) is taken away from her home in India to live at her strict uncle Lord Craven's (Colin Firth) large mansion in Yorkshire, England after both of her parents die from cholera. Due to the neglected nature of her upbringing, Mary has great difficulty expressing her emotions and struggles to open up to other people. Upon arriving at the mansion, Mary soon discovers that it hides various secrets and mysteries, including that of a large beautiful garden locked away from the rest of the estate. Over time, Mary befriends a stray dog she names Jemima, a young boy named Dickon (Amir Wilson), the brother of one of her uncle's maids, and also meets her bedridden cousin Colin (Edan Hayhurst), the latter of which she believes spending time in the garden will cure him of all his ailments.
Up to this point, there have been three previous film adaptations of "The Secret Garden", with the 1993 version considered to be the one that most people fondly remember. This 2020 reimagining doesn't so much feel like a remake of that film but rather its own unique take on what I can only guess made the original novel a classic in the first place. I have not read the novel but I have seen and enjoyed the 1993 film so this is the only thing I am able to compare this one to. With that said, although I think the 1993 film is superior, I did like how the 2020 film kept its important moral intact, being that the story is essentially a metaphor for personal growth and self-improvement. Both films communicate this message over to children in a relatively easy to understand manner, not once feeling as though it is talking down to them or belittling them for the changes they may be going through. Instead, they are shown that life can be unfair at certain points and that the only way to get through it is to work at your problems and find new methods of progressing forward.
What I feel is this film's biggest issue is its choppily edited first act. The whole time it seemed as though the director wanted to tell Mary's backstory through some oddly placed flashbacks and hallucinations during her stay at the mansion. This proved highly distracting and made it difficult to take in the atmosphere of her new environment when it kept jumping back and forth between Mary's life in India and her life in England. A technique like this may have worked better on paper, but on screen it just felt like an awkward afterthought added in post-production. On the other hand, one thing I think this film does considerably better than its 1993 predecessor was the visual style. I loved the use of vibrant colours in the titular secret garden juxtaposed against the backdrop of the gloomy lurid looking mansion. It really gave the sense that this garden was a magical place of escapism that the children can play in without a care in the world.
All of the film's child actors did a fine job in their roles, with Dixie Egerickx clearly being the standout as Mary. It is never easy for most people to step out of their comfort zone as they try to adjust to living in a new area, and Egerickx's performance definitely gave off that feeling that anyone who is going through such a thing will be able to find something to relate to. I also loved the adorable dog known as Jemima, who wasn't in any previous adaptations as far as I know and it really added a nice air of cuteness to the story. However, I was disappointed with how underused all of the adults were. Colin Firth barely has enough screen time to leave an impression, which is a shame because I was genuinely curious to see how he could have played his character in comparison to the actor in the 1993 film. The same can be said for Julie Walters, whose 1993 counterpart to her role was played by Maggie Smith, who was one of that film's standouts. This may have been done to put more emphasis on the child characters, but the 1993 film had a nice balance between the children and the adults so I don't understand why they couldn't do that here as well.
Even though it may not be remembered as affectionately as its previous adaptation, I'd say that this film still has just enough in it for most audiences to enjoy. Nevertheless, the 1993 film is still the better one and I definitely prefer it for the various reasons stated above. Watching both of these films has actually made me interested in reading the original novel to see how it compares to all these onscreen treatments and I am certain the story is better in print form. With that said, go and see the 1993 film if you haven't already, and if you feel up to it, watch this one afterwards.
I rate it 6.5/10
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