1 October 2020 Susannah

The Secret Garden 2020

Dixie Egerickx and Amir Wilson in The Secret Garden 2020

I went the other day to watch the movie of The Secret Garden, based on the much-loved novel by Frances Hodgson Burnett. The book was published in 1911 and has been filmed several times. I was disappointed in this new version and actually found it rather dull.

A vital theme of the novel is the power of work – Mary, Colin and Dickon work in the garden, learning in the process that what is neglected withers and dies, but what is nurtured and tended can bring joy and regeneration. However, the film failed to show a single bit of work taking place in the garden – just swimming and play. The time period in which the novel was set was changed, Dickon and his sister Martha are acted by Jamaican actors (and in these days of colour-blind casting, their black skins were never commented on once, although in Victorian England black servants in a Yorkshire manor would have been highly unusual), there was some magical growth of plants which was very unconvincing, and the ending was greatly changed. Why? It’s a wonderful story, with a good moral message that is as relevant today as when the book was written, so why make changes that do nothing to improve it? Even Colin Firth (with a hunched back, so looking very different from Mr Darcy) couldn’t rescue the film for me – such a disappointment!

Watch on YouTube

My video talk of The Secret Garden is available completely free to watch on YouTube. Have a look here.

Have you seen this adaptation of The Secret Garden yet? If so, what do you think? Share your thoughts by leaving a comment.

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Featured image credit- Dixie Egerickx and Amir Wilson in The Secret Garden 2020, https://www.imdb.com/title/tt2702920/
Body image credit- Dixie Egerickx and Amir Wilson in The Secret Garden 2020, https://www.imdb.com/title/tt2702920/

Comments (8)

  1. Jenny Falkiner

    I had a very old copy of the Secret Garden which had belonged to my step mother as a child and I loved that book and read it over and over, I am glad I have never seen the movie, I am sure I would have agreed with you. My daughter also loved the book and tried to buy a copy for a niece but I think the old versions are worth a fortune now so she gave up. I’ll tell her not to watch the movie!

    • Susannah Fullerton

      Some people seem to have really liked the movie, but I was very disappointed in it. And almost invariably, the book is better than the film, so keep your lovely memories of it.

  2. F Barnett

    With respect, I completely disagree. The Secret Garden is a story with many layers, “the power of work” being only one. For me the overriding themes are of loss, grief and ultimately, rejuvenation, with the garden’s growth acting as a metaphor for the emotional growth of the characters. This new movie shows us the garden as not so much ‘dead’ as ‘locked away’ not unlike the emotions of Mary, Colin and Archibald. It depicts beautifully the development of those characters from stuck and sad to happy and hopeful. I loved the way that the film-makers chose to show the story through Mary’s eyes and her childish imagination. So much braver and more refreshing than simply regurgitating the (somewhat imperfect) novel verbatim or desperately trying to ‘remake’ a film from 30 years ago, that is much loved and still readily available for those who want it. This is a beautiful film in its own right – it seems churlish to criticise so heavily something so well acted and lovingly made because it made different choices with the material. I see this alongside all other ‘adaptations’ of this story – not instead of.

    • Susannah Fullerton

      It seems we will have to agree to disagree on this one. I agree that the book, like any classic, has many layers, but the theme of work is hugely important, and that was totally left out of the movie. Yes, the garden is a place of regeneration, but only because the children work to bring it back to life and it soothes and helps them as they do so.
      I looked up some of the reviews and some reviewers loved it, while others felt it was a dull film (I actually found myself checking my watch while watching it, so I too was rather bored by it) and one commented that the garden was more like Jurassic Park than an English garden. Another said that visuals dominated the story, to the detriment of the story. I am not a complete purist when it comes to films and do see that sometimes changes need to be made to a book for the sake of drama on screen, but in this case I just couldn’t see the point of the changes from the book and felt they damaged rather than enhanced.
      Anyway, everyone has their individual tastes in books and movies and the lovely thing is that there are no rights and wrongs, just different opinions. I’m glad you enjoyed it.

  3. maggie

    Did you know that in the 1987 TV version of The Secret Garden, Colin Firth played the adult Colin Craven?

    • Susannah Fullerton

      Yes, I did. It was rather sad to see him as a hunchback in this version – not at all like gorgeous Mr Darcy!

  4. June Booker

    II completely agree with you, I took my granddaughter and her friend age 11, they thoroughly enjoyed it,, but of course had not seen the earlier versions.
    I think to take younger children, it was dark and scary, and why change a beautiful story, there were 7 people at the movie, only my two children otherwise all adults.
    They changed Little Women and Emma, such a shame.

    • Susannah Fullerton

      I was also almost alone in the cinema when I saw it. It really puzzles me why they feel the need to make such changes when they make movies. if they love the book enough to turn it into a film, why completely change the whole moral of the book, and re-write the ending? So frustrating!

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