The Secret Garden (3 stars)

The Secret Garden

Marc Munden's take on the classic children's story lacks a little magic

Frances Hodgson Burnett's beloved 1911 novel has been adapted for television, film and stage numerous times. Director Marc Munden and screenwriter Jack Thorne revive the story for a new generation. Largely sticking to the original text, though with the action now taking place in 1947, the focus is on 10-year-old Mary Lennox (The Little Stranger's Dixie Egerickx), who arrives at the rundown Yorkshire estate belonging to her hunchbacked uncle, Lord Archibald Craven (Colin Firth).

Death lingers around the edges of The Secret Garden; Mary's parents passed away during the family's time in India, while Craven's own wife – sister to Mary's mother – has also died. Munden's production designer Grant Montgomery does a fine job dressing the house to look like the life has been sucked out of it.

As the story unfolds, the inquisitive Mary makes a number of discoveries – notably the titular garden, which she comes to believe has healing properties. Then there's her cousin, Colin (Edan Hayhurst), bedbound through illness and too afraid to step outside. Despite the warnings of her uncle and stern housekeeper Mrs Medlock (Julie Walters), Mary just can't resist stirring things up.

The big selling point here is Egerickx, who gives a really spirited performance as Mary, a girl forced to hide her pain over the loss of her parents. Firth, who briefly played the adult Colin Craven in a 1987 TV version, is a little overwrought as her troubled relative, while Walters simply treads water.

The garden itself was shot in various real-life locations, including in Cornwall, Somerset and the Forest of Dean, but it's a pity that Munden decided to augment it with heavy doses of CGI – or, at least, that's how it appears. Youngsters new to the story should fall for its charms, but adults may find the magic in shorter supply.

Available to watch in cinemas and on Sky Cinema from Fri 23 Oct.

The Secret Garden

  • 3 stars
  • 2020
  • UK / France
  • 1h 39min
  • PG
  • Directed by: Marc Munden
  • Cast: Dixie Egerickx, Colin Firth, Julie Walters

Another big-screen adaptation of the Frances Hodges Burnett classic story about a girl who discovers a magical garden.