on August 7, 2000
After watching the 1987 version, I was very disappointed with the acting and decided to definitely watch the 1993 production. The acting is superior and the setting more realistic. If someone could take the best qualities of both movies and put them into one, to me that would be the perfect Secret Garden movie.
The 1987 version taught lessons more easily to younger children, while this newer one will be enjoyed more by older children and adults. Colin's father (played by John Lynch) is a much more human portrayal. We can truly empathize with his sorrow and Colin's need to have his father in his life.
Mary Lenox was also played in a more serious light by Kate Maberley. She portrayed her character extremely well. Her story begins in India and we learn she is emotionally neglected, yet spoiled and physically well taken care of. She loses her parents in a massive earthquake. (In the 1987 film it is a plague.)
Since she can no longer stay in India, she is literally shipped off to her uncle. As she enters the monstrosity of a castle, we feel she is doomed to be neglected, hated and locked away. Even Mrs. Medlock (the housekeeper played by Maggie Smith) is not impressed or sympathetic. Mary is told "not to go wandering and poking about." Mary's natural curiosity compels her to discover a way out of her room and soon she finds secret doors, staircases, rooms and gardens.
At first Martha (a maid) is her only friend, then she soon learns to like Martha's brother Dikon. He shares her love of gardening. Martha and Dikon seem to be the only truly happy characters for the entire first half of the movie. All the actors have wonderful accents and reveal the positive and negative aspects of each character.
When Mary meets Colin, she has in fact met her match. He is her cousin who is bedridden, spoiled and annoying! His hysterical screeching makes him most unlovable. Mary shows Colin that nothing is impossible when you put your mind to it. She also says something profoundly beautiful at the end of the story.
I found the magic spell casting in this version a bit intense in comparison to the 1987 version, where dancing around the fire was a fun time. There is something about the 1987 version which I think appeals more to children, as the characters seem to have a bit more fun overall. This 1993 version has a much better ending. I recommend this version for those who want a high-quality movie, and the 1987 version for those who can overlook the acting. I think there is something to be learned from both movies.
on July 30, 2000
The Secret Garden is my all time favorite film of its genre. It's a family film, but it is not just for kids. The story is simple enough for children to understand, yet complex enough to keep adults interested.
One of the aspects of the film I like best is the cinematography. It is visually striking, and the direction was excellent. I can't say enough about the emotions evoked by the visual excellence of this film.
The acting was superior, especially Kate Maberly's portrayal of Mary Lennox. But all the actors did a superb job. They were very believable.
The sound track is also superior. The haunting melody of "Winter Light" graced many of the outdoor scenes. Sung by Linda Ronstadt as the closing theme, it remains one of my favorite musical compositions. The interplay of the background music with the film's stunning visual beauty makes this movie a true work of art.
When the movie first came out in theaters, I took my 8-year-old daughter to see it. She liked it fine, but I fell in love with it and have been in love with the film ever since. I'm a man in my late 40s and I'm not ashamed in the least to admit that I simply adore this enchanting family film. From its intriguing beginning to its highly emotional end, the film is perfect. Enough said.
on April 13, 2000
In 1993, I first saw the film "The Secret Garden", and loved it. I have the video today and whenever I look at it or think about it, it still thrills me.
This film stars Kate Maberley as Mary Lennox, a girl about ten years old who lives in India. Sadly, Mary is neglected by her parents and spoiled by the servants who look after her. But things change when she loses her parents in an earthquake (not to cholera, as in the original book. I suspect they made the change because there's more drama in an earthquake than in a cholera epidemic).
As a result, she has to go to England, where her uncle, Lord Craven, lives. But he's miserable because he lost his wife due to premature childbirth (she fell off a swing in her garden and it triggered the birth of her son, Colin). He locked up the garden and neglected Colin in sheer grief. Mrs. Medlock, trying to maintain order in the household, urges Mary not to go poking about. But sure enough, Mary does, finding first the key to the secret garden, then the garden itself, then Colin. And as she does so, both she and Colin begin to come alive, aided by Dickon, the brother of the Yorkshire servant, Martha.
I especially loved two things about the movie: the music and the actors. The music was beautiful, especially the music associated with the garden. It made me appreciate the beauty of nature and of the garden, especially when the garden came alive.
As for the actors, they were all excellent, especially the children. Kate, Heydon Prowse (Colin), and Andrew Knotts (Dickon) all looked like real children in a real situation. And both Kate and Heydon portrayed their characters' unlovable traits very well without forfeiting my affection for them. Also, John Lynch was fine as Lord Craven, and Maggie Smith was excellent as Mrs. Medlock, who may have seemed bad, but who was simply acting out of good, if misguided, intentions. Still, I wanted to tell her that Colin's legs were swollen and red because he was getting better, not because he was getting worse!
The film doesn't have a whole lot of action, which is just fine for the film because the film probably would be hurt by a lot of action. But if you don't like films which take their time and create a great mood, don't see this film. If you do like films which take their time to create the appropriate mood, see The Secret Garden. You won't regret it!
on January 27, 2000
When writing or directing a children's film, far too often people find it necessary to dumb down work in order to cater to a young audience. Fortunately this is not the case with The Secret Garden, a film in which the story it presents is well crafted and intelligent, and appealing to both young and old audiences. In many ways the production could have gone dreadfully wrong. One can see where in the hands of a less talented writer or director the story could have become melodramatic, overly sentimental, or comical, yet The Secret Garden is a beautifully executed picture that rings true as a result of its naturalistic storytelling. Much of this is due to the credit of its fine cast. Frequently, child actors are employed to act "cute" onscreen, but there is not a young actor in this movie who does not give a performance of great depth. In fact, it can easily be argued that each one of these children exhibit greater skill than many adults currently working in the realm of cinema. But what is at the heart of The Secret Garden is a beautiful lyrical story about love, childhood, growth, and healing. There are moments in the film that are so genuinely touching the viewer's heart almost stops. Such is the case of the scene in which the bedridden Collin is escorted outside of his house and his eyes open to see spread before him his mother's beautiful garden. No line of dialogue is necessary, for the happiness and peace that appears on Collin's face speakvolumes in regard to his character. The film's ending emotion is so rich and moving that it is impossible for the filmgoer to sit untouched. This story is an absolute delight, and should be a must for everyone! 10/10
on September 7, 1999
There are so many wonderful things about this vivid, affecting film: mesmerizing cinmetography, a captivating story, a pretty good script, a very good music score, wonderful acting, even gorgeous flowers! Agneiska Holland does a wonderful job of bringing out all the subtle little points and lavish details of Frances Hosgson Burnett's classic story, and also in getting great performances out of her child actors, particularly from Kate Maberly as Mary, who at the age of ten succeeds remarkably in carrying the whole film. At her most effective when biterly recalling her parents and angrily confronting Colin, also played well by Heydn Prowse, she also makes a believeable transformation into a good, caring little girl as she tends a lovely hidden garden. Maggie Smith also delivers as Mrs. Medlock, the housekeeper who seems to be mean but really is only doing what she thinks best, even if it means locking Mary up and attempting to control Colin's every move. There is not a dud performance to be found here, but those mentioned are the best. The magical qualities in the garden are very apparent here, and wonderfully demonstrated. There are many good film versions of this great book, and some that aren't so good. If you want to own only one, my vote would go to this one, the best of the bunch.
on August 11, 2001
'The Secret Garden' tells the delightful story of a young girl called Mary, who becomes an orphan, and is forced to live with her aunt in a huge mansion.
At first Mary is a spoilt brat, but after finding a locked and neglected garden, things begin to change. Secrets about her childhood are revealed. She befriends a boy, and discovers a cousin who is an invalid. And teaches a father to love his son again.
With the magic and love that grows in 'The Secret Garden', any disability can be overcome.
I have read the book and I loved it! I love the movie too! It is beautiful and kind. By far one of my classic favorite movies I have seen. The ending, while very happy, always manages to bring tears to my eyes! It is so beautiful. I also really love the song 'Winter Light' by Linda Ronstadt. Kate Maberly is also delightful! I love the lines 'Colin: 'Are you making this magic?' Mary:'No you are!'
I would reccommend this movie for all ages!
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. When Mary Lennox, a spoiled little girl, 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 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. 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, especially by the always wonderful Margaret Smith, as Mrs. Medlock, and John Lynch as Mr. Craven. A timeless classic blooms to life once again.
on June 8, 2003
This film is excellently directed and gives the original story the extra grace. I read the story when I was a little boy. The garden remains mysterious to me. Now I am glad to find the garden in this film though a bit different from what I had expected. Art directing is stellar. From the onset of Indian landscape to vividness of the garden I had been awestruck.
Children actors are super as well. And supporting actors particularly Maggie Smith as the strict servant create the mood of the story well. A bit of unconvincing part is Mary's cousin Colin being too quick to walk briskly. Overall excellent artwork and directing overcedes the minor things. The use of guiding robin is also nice. And the garden is beautiful and the process of rebooming is nicely described. This should not be limited to children. Adults need such heartwarming story.
on July 15, 2004
This is a beautiful film, there is absolutely no denying that. It is also exceptionally well cast: Mary's transformation from sour little brat to glowing wee lass is completely believable, and the bratty, dour Colin makes a perfect "to the manor born" invalid. My only problem is the liberties taken with the plot.
Having the parents die in an earthquake while Mary is watching is a needless, though minor liberty (though it does mean that the touching line about "there's no one left to come" must be left out). But there was no need to change the plot to make the housekeeper (a wasted Maggie Smith) evil, and the chanting around the campfire is just weird.
The movie is worth watching for the scenery alone, but make sure that you read the book first. It is much better.
on November 6, 2001
'The Secret Garden' is one of my favourite films ever. It is a superb film experiance for any person, and a superlative example of film production in every area. The adaptation, the script, the acting, the directing, the score, and the production are exemplary.
The DVD offers no extra features over the VHS version except the obvious technical quality, yet the standard of the film is such that it demands a copy in the DVD format, if only from a pride of ownership perspective. I already owned a copy on VHS when the DVD version was released, and didn't hesitate on buying it again on DVD for posterity.
Don't ever rent this film: BUY IT.
It will become a joy to watch over and over again, each time bringing a new level of understanding, and returning ever more to the viewer.