Making the Grades
Based on a great story for children, The Secret Garden is a tale that begs to be put to film, so much so that this is the fourth attempt that I am aware of. In the story, a young girl, Mary Lennox (Kate Maberly), living in colonial India loses her parents in an earthquake (it was a plague in the original, I guess earthquakes are a bit more trendy these days) and is forced to live with Lord Craven (John Lynch), a long lost relative in England. Pampered to the point of being unable to even dress herself, she is in for a major lifestyle change.
Confined to a room in a huge castle-like mansion, her only relief is playing outside. Soon, though, her insatiable curiosity allows her to discover Colin (Heydon Prowse) , an only child of Lord Craven's, hidden away in the house. Convinced he is going to die since birth, he has been confined to a bed by his paranoid father and the servants. Mary has now found her purpose in life, and determines to get Colin on his feet.
Even that description seems too simplistic, as there are so many other elements happening in this story. This is not just a movie for children. Adults, if they watch carefully, will begin to see many other details that make this such a powerful story. Among many other themes, it shows how each of us will only live up to the potential that we think is expected of us.
The production of this film is superb. Having seen two of the previous versions, I felt this one was a bit too cold, to the point where the warm heart of the story is masked. Mrs. Medlock (Maggie Smith), the housekeeper, is strict and stern to the end, yet in the story and other versions (my personal favourite being the production by Hallmark), she becomes warmer earlier. Otherwise, this movie is a beautiful story the whole family can enjoy.