Starring: Dixie Egerickx, Colin Firth, Julie Walters
Director: Marc Munden
Running Time: 100 mins
The Secret Garden is a British film about a young girl who is orphaned in the aftermath of the Second World War, and sent to live with her reclusive uncle at a dilapidated English manor, where she discovers an incredible secret.
Filled with childlike wonder, lovely performances and an uplifting message, The Secret Garden is an undeniably sweet film. However, it lacks the emotional depth it’s often aiming for, proving a little too fluffy and light to remain fully engrossing throughout.
But let’s start with the positives. Above all, The Secret Garden has a really lovely sense of awe and wonder right the way throughout, transporting you back to when you were a child and the whole world seemed so big, but you wanted to take on it all.
With a wonderful lead performance by the young Dixie Egerickx, the film has a strong and likable central presence with whom you can really sympathise, particularly as she begins to explore the magic of the secret garden and its deeply emotional past.
The scenes in the garden are by far the movie’s best, with gorgeous visuals and an eye-wateringly beautiful imagination and sense of wonder. Almost like a blend of the adventurous spirit of The Railway Children with a dash of Bridge To Terabithia thrown in, The Secret Garden is easily at its best when it’s at its most intrepid.
When the film is a little more down-to-earth, however, it really struggles to live up to those wonderfully innocent highs. Attempting to tell a serious story about grief, loss and moving on in life, there’s no doubt that there’s more to The Secret Garden than just childhood adventure, but it doesn’t do enough to make its deeper emotional themes particularly captivating.
Apart from the fact that most of the characters either seem to move on from trauma in their life incredibly quickly or not at all, there’s very little in the way of challenging, heartbreaking drama here. Of course, it’s a family movie, but some of the best sentimental family dramas use heavy-going emotional drama to great effect when telling a story.
The Secret Garden, however, never has that overwhelming sense of unstoppable emotion that you often feel as a child. There’s trauma and difficulty at every turn here, at least below the surface, but the story doesn’t pay it enough attention to lend a little more depth and intrigue to its otherwise delightful adventure tale.
Overall, I liked The Secret Garden, but still felt it was a missed opportunity. Really lovely at moments with a gorgeous sense of childlike wonder, the film is wonderful when it’s having innocent, awe-inspired fun. However, it fails to create a dramatically interesting story, which really hurts it when the action moves away from a more fantastical land into the harsher real world. So, that’s why I’m giving it a 7.0.