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film criticism by maryann johanson | since 1997

The Secret Garden (review)

Based on the beloved novel by Francis Hodgson Burnett, this charming adaptation from the BBC has achieved classic status in the thirty years since its production, and it arrives now on DVD for the first time. The precocious Sarah Hollis Andrews stars as young Mary Lennox, newly orphaned and sent to live with her emotionally remote uncle at his grim Yorkshire manor — a spoiled and rather antisocial brat, she slowly learns some manners, learns to smile, and learns that there is at least one thing in her gloomy world to be passionate about: the hidden, neglected garden on the manor grounds that seems to have a magic all its own. Lovely performances all around and a dedication to capturing the enchantment of childhood discoveries make this a delight for family viewing, as well as for fans of British television. Dating from 1975, the image is crisp and clear, but somehow the transition from the exteriors, which were shot on film, to the interiors, which were shot on video, as was the BBC’s practice at the time, is even more distracting via the clarity of DVD, particular when the “exterior” of the secret garden itself obviously existed on a soundstage and hence was captured on video. Nevertheless, this is still heartily recommended.

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MPAA: not rated

viewed at home on a small screen

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