List Film

Back to the Garden (2 stars)

Dull improvised ensemble piece

Back to the Garden

Anyone with a glancing knowledge of the film industry is aware that in any given year, scores of fine films fail to make it into cinemas, because it's judged that they don't have commercial potential. This happens, particularly in time of recession, not just to no-hope films, but also to films with great plots, name casts, famous directors – films, in short, that you would really imagine merited a chance.

And yet there's a confusing flipside, in that sometimes commercial life is granted to a project for which a substantial audience is pretty hard to envisage. This is one such instance. Essentially, this improvised ensemble piece about ageing theatre folk assessing life and love in the aftermath of their shared mentor's death is an indulgent vanity project cooked up between friends; the best one can say is that it was probably fun being in it, and what it's doing getting released in cinemas is anyone's guess.

There's something potentially interesting about a film making the point that neither mumblecore stylings nor maudlin introspection about relationships need be confined to youthful characters, but unfortunately there's hardly anything interesting about the achingly drawn-out conversations, muddy cinematography and uncertain acting that characterise this piece. It's been made with much attention to a Mike Leigh-style, character-led 'method', but scant awareness of matters such as plot, character development, pacing or momentum, with the consequence that you feel as if you're watching a very long drama workshop, and that no-one taking part particularly cares whether you're finding it interesting or not. Occasionally, there's a nice, real-feeling moment of character interaction – but one senses that's chiefly down to the fact that if you throw this much aimless acting at the wall, eventually some of it's going to stick. For the most part this is just terribly dull.

Limited release from Fri 14 Mar.

Back To The Garden - official trailer

Back to the Garden

  • 2 stars
  • 2013
  • UK
  • 70 min
  • 15
  • Directed by: Jon Sanders
  • Cast: Emma Garden, Bob Goody, Anna Mottram
  • UK release: 14 March 2014

Improvised ensemble piece about ageing theatre folk assessing their lives in the aftermath of their shared mentor's death. Uncertain acting, drawn-out conversations, muddy cinematography and a lack of attention to story, pacing or character development make for a dull, indulgent vanity project which feels like watching a…


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