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There are some stories that become classics of literature that you know are going to be turned into films for every generation. The Secret Garden is one of those stories, and now, it's become a movie yet again. And perhaps given the circumstances, the story of a young girl finding a mystical garden while stuck living with her uncle will resonate more with its intended audience.
The Secret Garden is a story about youth and magic, and for the most part, the new adaptation seems to have some of those things. CinemaBlend's Sarah El-Mahmoud gave the movie three stars, saying that while the film is missing some of what made other recent literary adaptations great, there is still a lot to appreciate and enjoy here, even if Colin Firth isn't in the film nearly enough...
The highest praise one can give The Secret Garden is its overall sensory experience. It’s beautiful to look at as its unique cinematographic vision pulls the eye in from its opening shots.
In its top-heavy image-driven way, The Secret Garden is trying for some of the atmospheric poetry that was missing from Agnieszka Holland’s 1993 version. Yet if anything, that just makes it fall further away from the novel’s essence. The garden isn’t a supernatural place, but it’s supposed to be a mystical place. In this movie, it comes closer to being a special effect.
Other reviews, like the one from Indiewire seem to split the difference between these two views, believing that while this isn't the best version of The Secret Garden ever put to film, in its best moments it is something special...
This film is not the best representation of Burnett's works, which toed the line between the magical and the painfully - but in the moments when it succeeds, "The Secret Garden" blossoms into something beautiful.
The biggest issue with the new Secret Garden, for those that know and love the original story, is that the new film takes its share of liberties with that story. Purists may take issue with some of these changes, but THR feels that the new movie works as is and anybody being introduced to The Secret Garden through this film will be delighted by it.
The degree to which any of the plot embellishments add to the time-tested appeal of Hodgson Burnett's story no doubt will engender debate. But to the generation encountering it for the first time, its pleasures should be unencumbered.
The Secret Garden has been put on screen many times, and it likely will be many more, and while this might not be the best possible version, it appears to be one worth seeing. The Secret Garden will be available via VOD beginning August 7.