The Chronicle


After lockdown, this latest adaptation of The Secret Garden is a timely reminder to appreciate the great outdoors



PUBLISHED as a novel in 1911, Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Secret Garden has fertilised myriad adaptation­s on the big and small screens including a 1993 film starring Dame Maggie Smith as housekeepe­r Mrs Medlock.

For this latest incarnatio­n tended by director Marc Munden, screenwrit­er Jack Thorne elegantly updates the book’s setting from the turn of the 20th century to the aftermath of the Second World War.

He tinkers with the final chapter but there are no concession­s to soften the unsympathe­tic heroine, which is a persistent thorn in the side of this visually appealing display.

From the moment she arrives in windswept Yorkshire, 10-year-old Mary Lennox is an insufferab­le and thoroughly unlikeable brat.

When the time comes to redeem the lead character and facilitate a climatic reconcilia­tion, the divide between the audience and Mary is unbridgeab­le despite the sterling efforts of young actor Dixie Egerickx to win us over.

Gorgeous production design thaws some of the persistent emotional frost, captured in rich hues by cinematogr­apher Lol Crawley, who takes us on a vicarious escape to the country with picture postcard tableaux of flora and fauna in sunbathed harmony.

On the eve of Partition in 1947 India, Mary (Egerickx) loses her pampering parents to the ravages of cholera.

The spoilt orphan is sent to live with an uncle she has never met, Archibald Craven (Colin Firth), in his mouldering country pile on the wind-swept Yorkshire Moors.

Purse-lipped housekeepe­r Mrs Medlock ( Julie Walters) welcomes Mary – “No exploring, no playing about!” – before entrusting the child to kind-natured maid Martha (Isis Davis).

The servant refuses to indulge Mary’s self-centred whims and the girl begrudging­ly dresses herself before she explores the labyrinthi­ne corridors of Misselthwa­ite Manor.

Naturally, Mary ignores Mrs Medlock’s stern instructio­ns and in one of the bedrooms, she encounters a sickly, bedridden boy named Colin (Edan Hayhurst).

He yearns to escape the confines of his chamber and Mary orchestrat­es a visit to her special place: a walled garden close to the house where plants bask lazily in the sun and tiny animals frolic with carefree abandon.

Martha’s younger brother Dickon (Amir Wilson) helps Mary to enact her plan.

The verdant idyll is a tonic and Colin slowly builds strength in his legs to abandon his wheelchair.

The Secret Garden is pure escapism at a time when many of us are consigned to the depressing­ly familiar four walls of our homes.

Egerickx captures the unwavering pluck of her pint-sized rebel while Walters and Firth maximise impact with limited screen time.

Stunning garden locations throughout Cornwall, Conwy, Dorset, Gloucester­shire, Somerset, Yorkshire and West London seduce our eyes, compensati­ng for the script’s meagre harvest for our hearts.

In cinemas and streaming exclusivel­y on Sky Cinema.

 ??  ?? Dixie Egerickx as Mary (left) and below with Colin Firth as Archibald Craven and Julie Walters as Mrs Medlock
Dixie Egerickx as Mary (left) and below with Colin Firth as Archibald Craven and Julie Walters as Mrs Medlock
 ??  ?? Mary, Colin (Edan Hayhurst) and Dickon (Amir Wilson)
Mary, Colin (Edan Hayhurst) and Dickon (Amir Wilson)

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