Movie review by Andrea Karen Hammer, director of Artsphoria’s Online Film Forum
This Beautiful Fantastic, full of offbeat and sometimes endearingly cranky characters, is a testament to the transformative powers of gardening.
Fans of Downtown Abbey will do a double take watching Bella (Jessica Brown Findlay), one of the central characters who aspires to become a children’s book author. As they scrutinize the face under the cropped bangs and study the character’s phobic gestures including donning full-body protective gear before entering her garden, the talented actress who also shaped the rebellious Lady Sybil on the PBS series is surprisingly discovered. In a seemingly polar opposite portrayal, Jessica Brown Findlay gives Bella’s fear of the outdoors–while needing to restore her neglected garden or face eviction–the same force.
Rough-Edged Character Divergent From Kind-Hearted Roles
Her irritated neighbor and horticulturist, Alfie Stephenson (Tom Wilkinson), observes Bella’s black-suited forays into her tangled backyard with concealed bemusement. As he peaks through a window from his isolated and lonely perch, Alfie barks orders and criticisms at his cook, Vernon (Andrew Scott). Playing a rough-edged character that is completely divergent from others imbued with kind-heartedness including Graham Dashwood in The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, Tom Wilkinson once again reveals his extraordinary range and understated power as an actor.
Humor and Gentle Wisdom Among Collection of Characters
Adding humor and gentle wisdom to this memorable collection of characters, Andrew Scott‘s low-key presence as Vernon inadvertently provides a bridge between the initially at odds Bella and Alfie. His meals sustain and fortify both neighbors while they struggle with isolation in their respective worlds. Along with his quiet recognition of each one’s quirks, Vernon ultimately helps to unify this eclectic group and take an unexpected position in the surprising conclusion.
Regeneration and Intertwined Lives Like Vines Growing With More Light
Through the intense process of restoring Bella’s neglected garden in This Beautiful Fantastic, each of these characters similarly grows with more light. As their lives become intertwined like vines, regeneration occurs–even if only briefly–against all the odds.
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