This is the kind of film that could be described as “nice”. It is also rather twee and very sweet.
It is also very British, rather low-key in its presentation of its characters and even their crises.
This is the story of Bella Brown (Jessica Brown Findlay). Telling the story is Alfie, played by Tom Wilkinson. We see Bella’s origins, her being abandoned as a baby, an eccentric biker finding her beside the water with ducks, her going to an orphanage with the nuns, but eventually her growing up, renting a house, wanting to be a writer, working in the local library, rather reserved.
She clearly irritates her neighbour, Alfie. So, what is told her story so r; she is not a friend. In fact, he is very critical of the way that she has left the rather large garden of her home in some rack and ruin.
Alfie has a cook, an Irishman named Vernon (Andrew Scott) who has two young daughters. But Alfie is dismissive of Vernon who goes next door to stay with Bella. He also supports her when the landlord arrives, giving her a one-month deadline to clear up the garden or she is out. Bella is not a gardener. She does try to do some work, even with Vernon who suffers from hay fever trying to help.
As might be expected, Alfie begins to relent, even reaching a deal with Bella that he will help working in the garden as long as Vernon still provides him with some meals – which Vernon does through a servery slide which he can slam shut at will.
Not all of Bella’s time is spent in the garden. She works at the local library which is administrated by rather bookish and prim librarian, Anna Chancellor. And there is a young man, Billy (Jeremy Irvine) who turns up for research, is noisy when he shouldn’t be, eats in the library when he shouldn’t, but there is a mutual attraction.
Alfie also has a book about gardening – which was written by his late wife. Bella reads it and that helps the bond between the two.
So, beautifying the garden within the month offers only limited dramatics for the film. Bella is supposed to go out with Billy but she sees him in town with another woman and retreats to her room in an emotional tantrum. In fact, there is an easy, over-easy solution about her seeing Billy and there is a nice reconciliation.
A touch of sadness, Bella finishing her book and reading it to Vernon’s girls, and, as has been said, nice, twee and sweet.
Peter Malone MSC is an Associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film and Broadcasting.
Review by the Australian Catholic Office for Film and Broadcasting