Based on the novel from 1910, this remake shifts the famous story to 1947. Mary Lennox (Dixie Egerickx) is rescued from an India torn apart by Partition and travels to her uncle (Colin Firth) in the crumbling Mistlethwaite Manor. Left to her own devices, she’s led by a stray dog (Fozzie) into an enchanted garden.

The shadow of colonialism and war charge a Gothic Jane Eyre-like atmosphere for Mary to escape, but beneath the breathtaking production and costume design, the original’s soulful message of self-improvement is obscured. The glory of the garden is meant to be manifested, imbued by the careful hard work of the children bringing it back to life. Here, it’s a ready-made, literally magical, safe haven for frolicking and healing. The hypochondriac hermit Colin (Edan Hayhurst), rather than being emboldened to go, is dragged unwillingly towards it, putting a damper on his recovery.

Each of these iconic characters is rendered two-dimensional, despite the efforts of Egerickx, Firth and Amir Wilson, as the writing favours exposition over emotion. Julie Walter’s Medlock lacks venom and Mistress Mary’s selfish tendencies are so half-hearted, there is little satisfaction in seeing her altruism grow upon the moors of Yorkshire. Well-intentioned but garbled flashbacks to dead mothers replace the real positive influences: gardener Ben Weatherstaff, and Susan Sowerby, Dickon and Martha’s wise and persuasive mother. The latter especially was a missed opportunity to cast a Black woman in such an influential, meaningful role from children’s literature.

For all its CGI sorcery, The Secret Garden is a pale imitation of its namesake, straying unnecessarily from the path trodden so carefully by Agnieszka Holland. The emotional emptiness of Jack Thorne’s script is unworthy of the lush visuals and uplifting music from Dario Marionelli and AURORA. Even the addition of a lovable dog can’t save it.



CAST: Dixie Egerickx, Amir Wilson, Julie Walters, Colin Firth, Isis Davis, Eden Hayhurst, Rupert Young, Maeve Dermody.

DIRECTOR: Marc Munden

WRITER: Jack Thorne

SYNOPSIS: An orphan is sent to live with her uncle in a mysterious manor on the moors. Left to explore, a canine friend leads her to an enchanted garden.