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Laramie Movie Scope:
The Secret Garden

A great family moive

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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October 4, 1993 -- ``The Secret Garden'' is a delightful film about children, but is much more than a mere children's film. It can be enjoyed by filmgoers of any age. The story is reminiscent of tales by Charles Dickens about children being brought up under strange, trying circumstances. In this tale, a young orphan girl arrives in England to live at her reclusive uncle's estate.

The film starts out in a dark and dreary building were children off a ship from India are being claimed by their relatives. It then moves to the dark, brooding 100-room mansion, where she explores its musty secrets. She finds her mother's old room and a key to a locked garden that was the favorite place of her late aunt, for which her uncle still suffers a crippling grief. At first, she is utterly alone in the large house and is harassed by the mean head housekeeper (an unsympathetic role well-played by award-winning actress Maggie Smith).

But soon she finds allies in housekeeper Martha (Laura Crossley) and Martha's brother, Dicken (Andrew Knott). After discovering the secret garden, she finds another ally in her uncle's son, played by Heydon Prowse.

As winter gives way to spring in the garden and life begins to overcome the death of winter, the children grow stronger and they begin to overcome the stifling grief that surrounds them.

The story ends in the spring in a wonderful triumph of life and light over darkness and death. It is a tremendously moving and powerful conclusion, achieved without special effects or violence of any kind.

The film explodes in light and color. Cinematographer Roger Deakins bathes the screen in the colors of spring, beautifully illustrating the power of life. The acting is uniformly excellent and the direction by Agniezka Holland (Europa, Europa) is deft.

The screenplay is flawless. There are no wasted words, no wasted scenes. There are no superfluous action sequences. There's no profanity. But unlike many children's films, the adults and children are both taken seriously in the story. This is the best family film I have seen since ``Beauty and the Beast.'' It rates an A.

Click here for links to places to buy this movie in video and/or DVD format, the soundtrack, books, even used videos, games and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at my last name at lariat dot org. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)