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 September 12, 2001
This remake of the classic title was a disappointment at the box office and no one knows why. It's exactly what parents say they're looking for in a kids' movie. Perhaps it's because many think of it as a "girl's movie." We found that both boys and girls identified with characters on many levels - losing parents, being part of a family and learning to understand one another's feelings. It's a wonderful, universal story. Kids are inspired and moved by the emotions each character goes through. They commented: "No matter what your problems are, you can overcome them." "It must have been shot in a big garden. It was neat." "Awesome, it was the best video ever!" Best for 7 to 12-year-olds.
on November 6, 2000
I have owned this film for I believe 7 years and it is still in my collection after all the years of selling my movies. There is something to say, "this is a classic!" I never wanted to let go of it. I was too weak for it. Kate Maberly is one of the most beautiful ladies in the world, including her acting, being exquisite and intelligent. This film is not a Children's Film as many people claim. This is a very adult film and the more I open my mind, the more I see that an adult (I am a college student) can be watching this and feel they are learning more from a little lady, than from millions of psychologists and books out in the world.
on May 17, 2014
Yes this movie varies from the original novel. I bought it for viewing at our book club meeting the month we read the original novel. And yes, the things that varied (the mother being twins, the lack of a disease massacre and instead either an earthquake or an invasion (they're not quite clear on that)) were very different. But the feelings of the story were still present. The three children were excellent in their roles, and Maggie Smith was wonderful. I will definitely be re-watching this film time and time again in the future. It's fantastic.
on May 11, 2011
I really enjoyed this movie. I enjoyed watching the garden come a live with Mary help. The animals are adorable in the movie.
One day while Mary was exploring around the grounds of the estate, Mary found a key near the garden gate. Mary, who is an ambitious, determined young lady to get her cousin Colin out of his bed and on his feet; told Colin about the garden that she discovered. Colin wanted to see for himself the garden. Mary was delighted to show Colin her secret garden. It is a great movie with a happy ending.
on September 17, 2001
This is a wonderful, universal story. The content is appropriate to this audience. Kids identify with characters on many levels - losing parents, being part of a family and learning to understand feelings. Stimulates students' creativity. Kids are inspired and moved by the emotions present in each of the characters. "No matter what your problems are, you can overcome them." "It must have been taped in a big garden. It was neat." "Awesome, it was the best video ever." Best for ages 8 to 12.
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.