The Secret Garden

With the help of screenwriter Caroline Thompson (Edward Scissorhands), director Agnieszka Holland (Europa Europa) turns Frances Hodgson Burnett’s rather gothic children’s book of 1911 into a splendid, evocative, beautifully realized picture. I haven’t seen the 1949 MGM version since my childhood, but it’s hard to believe it could be as effective as this one. The plot concerns three very different lonely and neglected children (Heydon Prowse, Kate Maberly, and Andrew Knott) in a remote part of rural England who discover a locked and equally neglected garden, and in the course of befriending one another slowly bring it back to life. Maggie Smith plays the somewhat Dickensian and unfriendly housekeeper who blocks their way to freedom, and the lovely musical score is by Zbigniew Preisner; Francis Ford Coppola served as executive producer. As a children’s movie with a fine sense of magic (without fantasy) and a great deal of feeling (without sentimentality), this beats the usual Disney junk hands down, and it can also be recommended wholeheartedly to adults as an expert piece of story telling. Ford City, Wilmette, Biograph, Lincoln Village, Golf Glen, Norridge, Esquire.

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