It’s no secret that 2020 has been a year filled with plenty of unwanted surprises. This is exactly why the new film adaptation of Frances Hodgson Burnett’s beloved novel from 1911 brings about a sense of comfort in uncertain times.
This year’s film version of The Secret Garden is absolutely charming. The novel is brought to life by an excellent cast that one immediately feels has a strong, thorough understanding of each and every character, as well as the nostalgia attached to the century-old tale. The film stars Colin Firth, the delightful Julie Walters, Dixie Egerickx as the orphaned Mary, Amir Wilson and Edan Hayhurst.
Mary Lennox, the headstrong but emotionally neglected 10-year-old who forms the story’s central character, is portrayed well by Egerickx. Although young, she has a good understanding of the complexities of who Mary is, as well as what she is going through. The tale begins when Mary moves to her uncle’s estate in Yorkshire, England, after her parents’ demise to cholera in India. Archibald Craven, her uncle, is played by Firth in the same stiff upper-lipped fashion that we have become used to from the actor.
The relationship between Mary and Craven is not even complicated – in fact, it barely exists. He is devastatingly haunted by the death of his wife to pay any attention to Mary during what one can only image to be an extremely painful moment in a 10-year-old’s life. She struggles to adjust to her new life in Yorkshire. However, as we all know, she finds solace in exploring the grounds of her uncle’s sprawling estate. She discovers the garden and uncovers the history of her family.
The Secret Garden explores the theme of friendship throughout, and the supporting cast has plenty to offer to Egerickx’s Mary. The friendship that Mary shares with Colin, her sickly cousin played by Hayhurst and Dickon, the adventurous brother of a worker on the estate, played by Wilson, forms an anchor for solidifying the role that friendships can play when dealing with the complexities of grief and redemption. This motley crew of children works together to unlock the garden’s magic. The young cast shares tender moments together and displays unbridled vulnerability and joy – a strong contrast to Firth’s sullen Craven.
The Secret Garden is directed by Marc Munden (who also directed National Treasure) and its script was adapted by Jack Thorne. Told from Mary’s perspective, the movie (and of course, the classic novel) blurs the thin line between childhood reality and imagination. She spends most of her time in her beloved garden, which takes on characteristics of its own. It reflects Mary’s moods and helps nurture her at a time when adult supervision is severely lacking in her life.
2020’s version of The Secret Garden is certainly a great movie that will make for a lovely day out with the kids, or even if you’re just looking to feel a little bit nostalgic and want to play now. The movie doesn’t go above and beyond any expectations, but it doesn’t need to – there is a great deal of comfort in it just being the way that it is.