(1993)

The timeless tale of a special place where magic, hope and love grow.

A young British girl born and reared in India loses her neglectful parents in an earthquake. She is returned to England to live at her uncle's castle. Her uncle is very distant due to the loss of his wife ten years before. Neglected once again, she begins exploring the estate and discovers a garden that has been locked and neglected. Aided by one of the servants' boys, she begins restoring the garden, and eventually discovers some other secrets of the manor.

_**Beautiful, reverent, awe-inspiring**_
To be honest, I remember seeing previews of this movie way back when it came out (in 1993) and thinking to myself, "WHY would anyone want to see such a film and why would anyone make it?" Well, about five years later it appeared on TV one night and I started watching, fully expecting to turn it off within 20 minutes or so. WOW -- was I ever wrong!
What I saw was beautiful and captivating, artistic and entrancing -- filmmaking of the highest order. "The Secret Garden" is a movie of such artistic quality that it ranks up there with the hallowed original "Apocalypse Now" (although they're totally different genres). It's no surprise that Francis Ford Coppola had his hand in both pics -- he was, of course, the director of "Apocalypse Now" and he's the executive producer of "The Secret Garden."
In any event, the cinematography is breathtaking and the score is awe-inspiring, ranking with the best in cinematic history.
***PLOT SPOILER***
The story's about a spoiled 10-year old English girl, orphaned in India, who comes home to live on her uncle's vast estate in the early 1900s. The girl, Mary, finds herself trapped in a mysterious, colossal manor -- almost a castle -- tyrannically managed by a life-stifling witch, Mrs. Medlock, in the frequent absence of her uncle, Lord Cravin. Because Mary is intelligent, independent and sly she is able to reconnoiter the manor and learn its forbidding secrets. The biggest secret is that her aunt died ten years earlier and her son, Colin, still lives there, albeit confined to a bed, sickly and unable to walk. Her uncle never healed from this heartbreak.
Mary discovers another secret in her explorations, a hidden garden, closed off and neglected since her aunt's death. After meeting the sickly and sad Colin, Mary inevitably finds a way to sneak him into the garden along with her pal Dickon. She senses that Colin isn't as sick as everyone is convinced; she knows the best thing would be to get him out of the dreary castle and the oppressive clutches of Mrs. Medlock. Mary and her secret garden are the keys to restoring health, life and freedom to Colin, Lord Cravin and the gloomy manor.
***END SPOILER***
"The Secret Garden" is sort of a 1990's version of the outstanding "Pollyanna" with Hayley Mills (1960). Both pics involve a young girl restoring a spirit of joy and liberty to a lifeless community. The difference is that Mary is not even remotely the "glad girl" Pollyanna. In fact, look for the hilarious line from the old gardener who responds to Mary's puzzlement concerning her lack of friends.
"The Secret Garden" is no doubt labeled a "children's film," which is a shame because it transcends such a limiting category. The ending's too quaint for my tastes but, nevertheless, this is a beautiful work of wonder and deep mystery, which can be enjoyed by people of all ages -- children and adults.
The film was shot in England and runs 101 minutes.
GRADE: A

American Zoetrope, Warner Bros. Pictures by Agnieszka Holland, Frances Hodgson Burnett, Caroline Thompson.
Stars: Kate Maberly, Maggie Smith, Heydon Prowse.

Genres: Drama, Family, Fantasy

Keywords: based on novel or book servant secret garden uncle yorkshire little girl orphan woman director old mansion fantasy life english garden

08/13/1993

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