Marc Munden's The Secret Garden Can Stay Secret

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Secret Garden 2020

THE SECRET GARDEN is one of those literary and film classics that, for whatever reason, has evaded my radar. Even the original version with Margaret O'Brien and Dean Stockwell has somehow gone unseen by me, despite may years of having watched such family classics on television, VHS, and DVD.

Would that I could have continued my streak -- or, perhaps, have seen it in one of it's prior versions.

The 2020 remake of the Frances Hodgson Burnett novel is a dreary, sluggish thing, spending fully half of its length telling the story of a rude and demanding little girl taken in by her reclusive uncle after the death of her parents. She's guilt-ridden and full of loathing for her dead mother and herself, and wanders indoors and outdoors of the sprawling estate. As she does so, the audience is made privy to ghosts and phantasmagoria, and whether the scenes are meant to be actively occuring in the film or merely the hallucinations of young Mary (Dixie Egerickx) are left unexplained.

During Mary's wanderings on the estate, she makes two discoveries. One of these is a young boy, her cousin Billy (Tommy Surridge), who is bedridden with a hunch back and an inability to walk; but Billy has no such hunch, and his perpetual residing on death's door is merely the projection of his father (Colin Firth), traumatized by the illness that took his own wife and Mary's aunt.

Mary's second discovery is a garden -- a massive, labyrinthine plot of botanical beauty, which has not succumbed to weeds despite not being cultivated for years. She also finds a dog and another young boy, Dickon (Amir Wilson), the younger brother of the housekeeper, Martha (Isis Davis). When Dickon bandages up the dog's wounded paw and it gets better, Mary creates the belief that it was the garden itself that healed the dog, through magical properties, and deduces the same magic could make Billy walk again, provided they can sneak him out of the house and past the ever-watchful eye of the stern Mrs. Medlock (Julie Walters).

While the effects are beautiful to look at, they don't contribute to the story -- in fact, they distract from it, which, in hindsight, up through the last fifteen minutes of the film is probably a good thing.

Overall, this version of THE SECRET GARDEN can remain hidden away like its namesake.

2.0 / 5.0