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Movie Review

The Secret Garden

Reviewed by: W.J. Kimble

Better than Average
Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
All Ages
99 min.

Starring: Kate Maberly, Heydon Prowse, Andrew Knott, Maggie Smith, John Lynch / Director: Agnieszka Holland / Released by: Warner Bros.

This delightful and charming movie begins by introducing you to an emotionally crippled girl, who is orphaned in India when her parents die in an earthquake. This spoiled and lonely English child, Mary (Kate Maberly), is forced to relocate to the gloomy and forbidding estate of her uncle, Lord Craven (John Lynch), known as Misselthwaite Manor. Here Mary is treated as a discommoding creature by the head housekeeper, Mrs. Medlock (Maggie Smith, “Sister Act” and “First Wives Club”). Confined to her room, Mary discovers a hidden door which begins her journey through the mansion, via secret passages, and eventually leads her to her deceased aunts' room, where she finds a mysterious key.

During one of her ventures through the mansion, Mary comes across the room of her sickly cousin, Colin (Heydon Prowse), who is a bedfast, self-induced cripple that is convinced that he is soon to die. And the real magic of this movie begins.

Meanwhile, forced to play on her own, Mary discovers The Secret Garden and a sweet-natured country boy, (Andrew Knott, “Black Beauty”), who shares in the secret of the garden and helps her to bring it back to life. With this young lad’s help and with great determination on her part, they convince Colin to join them in The Secret Garden. And it is here that they find the emotional balm that heals all wounds. Here, Mary learns to find the emotional release that her heart has longed for. She learns to love, cry, laugh and enjoy life. It is here, too, that Colin learns to walk and discovers a new reason for living.

“The Secret Garden” will send you through a foray of human emotions. At first you will be thrust into a emotional barrage of conflicting ideas. You will learn to despise Mary’s behavior; then you will feel sorry for her. You will laugh at her antics and revel in her curiosity; you’ll be touched by her adventurous spirit and rejoice in her victories.

“The Secret Garden” is a movie that will warm your heart. It is a family film that starts out slow but builds to a sensational climax. It is one that you will want to see over and over again. Agnieszka Holland (a renowned Polish film maker and director of this film) is an avowed fan of the Frances Hodgson Burnett’s 1911 novel, “The Secret Garden”. And having herself read this story over and over again, she magically brings this story to life.

“The Secret Garden” is clean and decent; a movie for the whole family. There is one scene where, in childish innocence, they are seen casting a spell, which is sent to bring back Colin’s dad who is away on a trip. Be sure to rent this video with your family, but also be sure to take the time to explain to your children why casting spells is wrong. you’ll be glad you did!

Year of Release—1993

Viewer Comments
…I don’t see how [the 1993 version] could be any better or as good for that matter, as the [1987 release]. There was one place at the beginning where the little girl said, I thought, “I don’t give a tinkers damn about….” That part has always disturbed be when I watch it but I can’t help but think that it is “dam” and the meaning might possibly be “mother” (I looked it up in the dictionary) or maybe another meaning. Anyway, if it is “damn” it, as the spell cast in the later version, can be explained also. (The ’87 version doesn’t cast a spell.)

Anyway, I said all that to say this. The “87 version is WELL worth watching. Everytime I watch it I get chills. The acting is far superior to any acting I’ve seen these days. I favor the movies in the late 30’s and the 40's. This is as good and as well made as about any I’ve seen from my favored era. I think this is where the term “less is more” originated, in that you don’t have to see all and hear all to get the message, whatever that might be. Also, the music in this is, well I can’t really describe it. It’s just so… enveloping, I guess. The players are: Gennie James, Barret Oliver, Jadrien Steele, Michael Horden, Billie Whitelaw, Derek Jacobi. All unknown to me but you won’t care!!!
—Stella Jackson