THE SECRET GARDEN – Review by Susan Granger

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British director Mark Munden’s new adaptation of Frances Hodgson Burnett’s beloved 1911 fable is adapted by Jack Thorne who – with cinematographer Lol Crawley – leans heavily on eye-popping magical realism.

Appealing to youngsters who have been trapped in isolation for many months because of Covid-19, the theme of the wondrous fable is surprisingly timely.

This version begins in 1947 India during a cholera epidemic on the eve of its Partition from Pakistan, during which 10 year-old Mary Lennox (Dixie Egerickx) is orphaned. She’s sent to England to live with her reclusive, widowed Uncle, Lord Archibald Craven (Colin Firth), at cavernous Misselthwaite Manor on the Yorkshire Moors.

Willful Mary is placed in the care of Craven’s stern housekeeper (Julie Walters) who warns her to keep to her own rooms and not to ‘explore’ her gloomy Gothic environs – which, of course, she immediately does, making fascinating ‘discoveries’ along the way.

Following a robin through the rolling mists, Mary finds a disheveled, stray dog and makes friends with Dickon (Amir Wilson), the young brother of the housemaid (Isis Davis).

When Mary climbs over a tall fence surrounding abandoned ruins, she’s suddenly in a secluded garden, a veritable paradise filled with lush, tropical flowers and foliage, along with a muddy stream whose remedial waters seem to heal the dog’s paw which was caught in a trap.

Meanwhile, Mary realizes there’s another child in her Uncle’s home. It’s his sickly son, her bedridden cousin Colin (Edan Hayhurst). Eventually, Mary coaxes frightened Colin into the secret garden, where – miraculously – he thrives.

Plus, there are ghostly flashbacks to happier times when Mary’s mother and Colin’s mother – devoted sisters – languished there.

FYI: While there have been many British TV/stage interpretations, perhaps the most poignant screen version was in 1949, starring Margaret O’Brien; Agnieska Holland remade it in 1993.

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, The Secret Garden is a fanciful 6, blurring the elusive line between a child’s imagination and reality. Available on Google Play, Amazon Prime and other streaming outlets.

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, Phi Beta Kappa, with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.