on January 31, 2005
An enjoyable adaptation, emphasis on adaptation, of the book. I found the characters very believable and especially enjoyed the characters of Mary, Dickon, Martha, Collin and Lord Craven. The movie itself is entrancing and certainly worth watching. That being said however those people who enjoy the book may find a few disappointments like I did. To put a book into a movie often requires the compression of activities. However I fail to see the reason to change the relationship between Mary's parents and her uncle, Lord Craven. In the book Mary's father and Lord Craven's late wife are brother and sister. In the movie Mary's mother and Lord Craven's wife are twin sisters. This is used to change one of the more important parts of the book where Collin has "his mother's eyes" which is a great part of the pain that Lord Craven feels when he looks at Collin. Collin is also less spoiled, or at least less demanding, in the movie. He is controlled by the housekeeper rather than being the "lord of the manor" as he is in the book. While setting up more confrontation it also detracts from his change from "spoiled brat" to a normal boy. One other point that I did not like, they leave out Dickon's mother who plays a small but pivotal role in the book.
Overall I would recommend this movie however if you have not read the book, read it for it gives great scope to ones imagination and is much more "human".
When an earthquake in India leaves her an orphan, Mary Lennox is sent to live at her uncle's remote estate in England. The spoiled, bratty Mary is quite miserable with no one to talk to or play with and a stern housekeeper (Maggie Smith) hovering over her. When Mary begins exploring the manor, she discovers not only a secret garden but also a secret cousin!
This is a beautifully-filmed children's story about the power of friendship and overcoming adversity. I wasn't familiar with the 1911 book (although I want to read it now), and I expected something awful to happen to the garden or the children, but only good things happen, so it's ideal for kids of all ages.
The Yorkshire location is lovely and the acting is uniformly wonderful. The joys of bringing an old garden to life and befriending a shut-in child are the simple, yet profound pleasures of this story. Highly recommended for those who like sweet, sentimental stories.
on November 1, 2003
I have to say this has got to be the best out of all the secret garden movies. The sets are breathtaking, and the garden just makes you want to wish you were there. I was amazed at how well the kids acted. I didn't even know kids could act that well. You sometimes even forgot they were children, and just payed attention to what they were saying.
When Mary Lennox, a spoiled little girl(Kate Maberly), is sent to live with her Uncle in the estate he owns called Misselthwait Manor after her parents die in a strange earthquake in India, she knows things aren't exactly in the ordinary. Someone in the castle crys out in terror all the time, and a giant garden out on the moors is locked up for who knows what reason. People are very mysterious about these two things, and no one wants to talk about it, so Mary'll just have to find out for herself with her curious mind. With the help of Dickon, and her new found friend Robin, she can unlock the secret to the garden, and to her heart.
Everything in this movie is flawless. They may not have followed the book too well, but even on its own, it made a great version. The acting was great by the adults too, especially by the always wonderful Maggie Smith, as Mrs. Medlock, and John Lynch as Mr. Craven. A timeless classic blooms to life once again.
on February 2, 2003
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; more importantly, WHY would anyone make it?" Well, about five years later it appeared on TV one night when I was bored. I decided to give it a try, 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 -- film-making of the highest order. "The Secret Garden" is a movie of such high artistic quality that it ranks up there with the hallowed "Apocalypse Now" (although, of course, these two flicks inhabit two opposite ends of the thematic spectrum). It's no wonder that Francis Ford Coppola had his hand in both of these pics -- he was the director of "Apocalypse Now" (duh) and the executive producer of "The Secret Garden."
Anyway, the cinematography is breathtaking and the music is wondrously outstanding.
To be brief, the story's about a young spoilied English girl, orphaned in India, who comes home to live on her uncle's vast estate in the early 1900's. The girl, Mary, finds herself trapped in a mysterious, colossal manor -- almost a castle -- tyranically managed by a life-stifling witch, Mrs. Medlock, in the frequent absence of her uncle, Lord Cravin. Because Mary is highly intelligent, independant and sly she is easily able to reconnoiter the manor and learn its forbidding secrets. The biggest secret is that her aunt died in childbirth about ten years before, but her son, Colin, still lives there, albeit confined to a bed, sickly and unable to walk. Her uncle evidently never healed from this heartbreak and this explains his frequent absences.
Mary finds a secret garden in her explorations, a hidden garden closed up and neglected since her aunt's death. After meeting the sickly and sad Colin, Mary inevitably finds a way to sneak him into the beautiful garden along with her pal Dickon. She instinctively senses that Colin isn't as sick as everyone is convinced he is; she knows the best thing for Colin 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.
"The Secret Garden" is kind 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" that Pollyanna is. (In fact, look for the hilarious line from the old man gardener who responds to Mary's puzzlement concerning her lack of friends).
"The Secret Garden" is no doubt labled a "children's film;" this is a shame because it so transcends such a limiting category. It is a beautiful work of wonder and deep mystery which can be enjoyed by people of all ages -- children and adults. SEE IT!
on December 5, 2002
The Secret Garden is without a doubt in my list of top five movies, and will doubtless remain there for the rest of my life. Why it was never a big box-office hit baffles me, as it is nearly perfect in every particular. Adults are just as able to enjoy this movie as their children are (or perhaps even more so!) and though the main character is a girl, the presence of two back-up male characters make this accessible to the reluctant boys.
Mary Lennox is a spoilt, bitter ten-year old girl living in India with her neglectful parents. After an earthquake leaves her an orphan however, she is shipped to Misselthwaite Manor, the cold, gloomy home of her uncle, still grieving over the death of his wife (Mary's mother's twin sister). There she is put in to the care of the strict housekeeper Mrs Medlock (admirably preformed by Maggie Smith) and warned not to go poking about in the endless corridors and passageways of the house. However, Mary is used to doing exactly as she pleases, and with the dual finding of a secret passage in her bedroom and the friendship of the cheerful, sweet maid Martha, Mary is soon roaming the grounds of the estate. There she meets Martha's younger brother, the kind-hearted country boy Dickon who can speak to animals and a red-breasted robin that reveals to her a garden hidden behind a wall of ivy...a secret garden.
Untangling the mystery of why this sad and beautiful garden is locked away takes Mary back to the tragic past of the house and her uncle - to when her aunt Lilias fell of a swing in the garden just before she gave birth and died, leaving Lord Archibald Craven a broken man, who cannot stand the sight of the Spring, the garden, or his son.
This son, Colin Craven is who Mary discovers one night after following the sound of his wailing. Colin is convinced he is going to become a hunchback like his father and die, but with the opening of the secret garden and its rebirth under the care of the three children means that his health gradually restores. Now all the children want is to bring his father home for similar healing, and the only way to do it seems to be to call on magical forces...
The three child actors are truely wonderful - Kate Maberly manages to make a spoilt young girl into a likeable, even relatable character and her transformation from a child who couldn't cry even at her parent's deaths to one that breaks down when she witnesses her uncle and his son walk off without her is beautifully created.
Heydon Prowse as the impatient, ungrateful Master Colin is another child starved of love, but his obession with death, germs and diseases means he is suffering more in the mind than in body. His frequent fits (or temper tantrums, more likely) means that his mother's garden (that definitly still holds his mother's spirit) can help him also make the change from unloveable and sickly to healthy and strong young boy.
However, special credit must be given to Andrew Knott as Dickon Sowerby, who brings a warmth, kindness and mischieviousness to his character that brings joy to the entire movie. He is one of the few 'good-guys' from the very beginning, and in a way the 'Samwise Gamgee' of the movie, not just because he is a kind-hearted simple gardener, but because he is the over-looked hero that ultimately saves the day by just being himself. The fact that the last scene of the movie is of Dickon travelling across the moor on his white pony is a testimony to this.
The adult cast also hold up nicely, from Martha to Mrs Medlock, to Ben Weatherstaff to Lord Craven himself. Even the actress that plays both Lilias and Mary's mother has some beautiful scenes, the most poignant being her reaching out to Mary in her dreams, and Lilias's spirit calling to Lord Craven: "I'm in the garden! With Colin!" Each performance is outstanding work.
The photography, directing and set design of the movie is also beautiful and it boasts a lovely, haunting musical score that includes the song 'Winter Light' that has also become one of my favourites. There are themes galore within the movie whether it be the turn of the seasons, the difference between the restrictions of the upper class and the freedom of the lower class, the relationships between various parents and their children, the joy and furfullment that can be found from simple pleasures, and even life triumphing over death. I even picked up on a subtle love triangle - the scene with Dickon and Mary on the swing together while Colin watches from behind the camera is an intriging one - I kinda wish that the film-makers had developed this plot thread further.
All in all, this movie has my absolute highest rating, and is as close to a perfect movie you can possibly get. Watch it, no matter who you are or what age you are.
on January 14, 2002
This is a film that will appeal to children of all ages. A definite MUST, and this is no exaggeration. Secrets and hidden passages abound in Misselthwaite Manor, where orphaned Mary Lennox is to live after coming from India (her parents were killed in a great Indian earthquake which happened a few months earlier in the storyline.) Adding to the depth of the story is an almost absent uncle who lives in the shadow of a tragic past. There is also her sickly cousin of a brat, who just can't stand the sunlight and fresh air. Put in too, impatient Mrs. Medlock, who is your "perfect" housekeeper. And top these with The Secret Garden, a sanctuary where the story finds its turning point from dark and despair to one of life, healing and hope. It is a place where things begin, and not without the efforts of the children, to grow.
There are moral lessons to boot all throughout the story. And for sure, the photography deserves praise. Suberb! Overall a perfect film that deserves a place in a collection. Frances Hodgson Burnett would not have been ashamed to see this film version of her classic novel were she alive today. Don't miss out on this one.
on October 20, 2001
A great film. Its very entertaining and a joy. Mary was born in India and her parents never thought about her. They always cared for themselves. Her parents soon passed away because of a fire so she was sent to her aunts house. It was different at the mansion that her aunt had. It was strange to her. One night Mary heard a boy crying and she followed the sound. The boy always talked about that he was going to die soon just like his father. He couldn't walk and was always in bed. They became friends but then Mary met Dicken and that kind of split up the relationship of Mary and the one boy that she met before. Mary found a secret garden and told Dicken about it. They started growing plants and flowers in the garden. After a while the flowers and plants started blooming and it was the most beautiful garden you would have ever seen. They decided to take the boy to the garden and they tought him how to walk. In the garden there would be animals running around. The three of them would always hang out in the garden. Mary says if you look in a cirtain way, the whole world is as if it were a garden.
on October 20, 2001
A great film. Its very entertaining and a joy. Mary was born in India and her parents never thought about her. They always cared for themselves. Her parents soon passed away because of a fire so she was sent to her aunts house. It was different at the mansion that her aunt had. It was strange to her. One night Mary heard a boy crying and she followed the sound. The boy always talked about that he was going to die soon just like his father. He couldn't walk and was always in bed. They became friends but then Mary met Dicken and that kind of split up the relationship of Mary and the one boy that she met before. Mary found a secret garden and told Dicken about it. They started growing plants and flowers in the garden. After a while the flowers and plants started blooming and it was the most beautiful garden you would have ever seen. They decided to take the boy to the garden and they tought him how to walk. In the garden there would be animals running around. The three of them would always hang out in the garden. Mary says if you look in a cirtain way, the whole world is as if it were a garden. This is really spose to be a VHS.
on October 9, 2001
Well...Having said that. This movie stays quite true to the book. Which makes it such a good movie. Because the book is very good. Its not exactly the same, but anyways.
I've seen this movie multiple times and the magic has yet to wear off. The tale is of a 10 year old girl named Mary Lennox who parents were killed in an earth quake in India(where they lived). So Mary Lennox must travel to England to her Uncles house in Yorkshire, where many secrets are hidden including YOU GUESSED IT!!! A Secret Garden which has not been opened for 10 years.
There a lovable as well as hateable characters. Such as Dickens and his sister, they are quite loveable, whereas Miss Medlock and Colin Craven are pretty hatefull. But it balances the movie out. At first Mary is a sour and angry child, but soon after opening the secret garden she begins to fall in love with it, and what it will be like.
I will not reveal anymore, but that should give you a good enough taste of the movie, the acting is excellent as well as the character development. *enjoy*!!!
God Bless ~Amy
on September 23, 2000
It started innocently enough. I just attempted to walk through the room where my kids were watching this movie. But I never made it to the other side. I happened in on the part where Mary is following the little bird through a maze of shrubbery. The visual is stunning enough, but what really makes this version work is the soundtrack. In this particular part, there is a very gusty, cold, damp wind blowing against the grey and dark green shrubbery, and in the background, behind the swishing of the leaves and the twittering of this little bird comes a piano and French horn duet that absolutely fascinated me with it's solemn, haunting mellowness.
It's hard to describe how powerfully the soundtrack melds into the visuals in this version of the classic children's book. Usually, the soundtrack provides an underpinning for the visuals and tries not to get in the way of the story or characters. But in this rendition, the soundtrack provides at least fully half of the impact. Needless to say, I was stuck there for the rest of the movie and have watched it again numerous times - most often alone.
I've not seen the other (1987) version, but of the bad reviews that it gets I can tell you there is none of that here aside from the normal English snobbery. My only hesitation is that the movie dabbled ever, EVER, so slightly on the occult (not enough to be offensive to most religious people), until going off the deep end briefly..., BRIEFLY..., in a short, but blatant seance with strong Celtic/Wiccan leanings. It was very brief, and it goes way past the understanding of young kids who may be watching. I could fairly easily edit it out, but unfortunately, the seance is a key turning point that makes the rest of the plot make sense.
In writing this review, I may be guilty of reminiscing. Perhaps the stunning visuals, scenery, and mood are only appealing to me because I was born and raised for most of my childhood in England, in settings very much like this. But the soundtrack is universal. Buy this movie, and then go buy it's soundtrack CD. I recommend this movie primarily for adults - not due to the content, but because the story is dark and moody, and children will most likely be bored by it.
If you are prone to tears, keep a box of tissues nearby. The ending is so emotionally powerful that it will absolutely push you over the edge. I'm a fully grown, 36 year old man, and I couldn't speak to my wife for half an hour after the movie ended.
If you like this, our other favourites include "Shadowlands" (based on a true story and also a major tragic tear-jerker) and "Sense and Sensibility".