Frances Winston writes that even if you don’t have an interest in gardening, you will enjoy this engaging film
Directed by: Vivienne de Courcy – Starring: Emma Greenwell, Tom Hughes, Alex Macqueen, Janie Dee, Christine Marzano, Alaa Safi
In this Olympic year, it is worth remembering that all disciplines seem to have their own equivalent of the ultra competitive sporting spectacle. In the case of gardeners, their ‘Olympics’ is the Chelsea Flower Show. That is at the heart of this film, which tells the story of Mary Reynolds (Greenwell) who was the first Irish Gold Medal Winner at the prestigious gardening event in 2002.
If you thought that plants and trees wouldn’t make for a very engaging film, you’d be surprised. Personally, I had no idea of the intricacies involved in entering a garden in the Chelsea Flower Show. Seemingly neither did Mary, who, having lost her job, naively makes up her mind that she will win the Gold Medal in the contest, despite knowing nothing about sponsorship, or the logistics of getting a whole garden from Ireland to Chelsea.
She was helped in no small part by her then romantic interest, Christy Collard (played here by Victoria’s Tom Hughes). Having convinced herself that he was the only one who could assist her, she followed him to Ethiopia, where he was working on a community project, and convinced him to come back home. (These scenes are absolutely beautifully shot). Obviously, we all know the end result was her win, but it is the work and sheer self-belief that goes into attaining it that makes this so interesting.
I say interesting rather than entertaining, because at times it feels like you are simply getting a blow by blow account about what it actually takes to do this kind of work. The romance between Mary and Christy seems almost secondary to her relationship with the plants and the earth.
Hughes is rather stiff as Collard. This, after all, is the man who created Electric Picnic’s Body & Soul stage in recent years. He clearly has a sense of fun, but Hughes plays him as po-faced and self-righteous. Also, I refuse to believe that there wasn’t an Irish actor available to play the role. Greenwell, however, is a delight as Mary (again though – were there no Irish actors available?) She really conveys the naivety and self-belief that led to Mary’s victory, and she actually looks like she gets her hands dirty from time to time. While the rest of the cast are wonderful (except a wogeously miscast Prince Charles character) this is very much her movie.
You don’t need an interest in gardening to appreciate this warm and sweet film. It’s not the most entertaining or action-packed movie you will see, but it will leave you feeling somewhat warm and fuzzy. The gardening jargon sometimes gets a bit much, but you do find yourself fully invested in Mary’s story, and if you are looking for a gentle drama that you can just sit back and relax with, this is the movie for you.
In Cinemas Now!