The Secret Garden is strangely perfect for the tricky times we are in

The Secret Garden is strangely perfect for the tricky times we are in


PG, 99mins


THERE are a lot more secrets than just a garden in Misselthwaite Manor.

Trapped inside the walls of the enormous house-of-horrors-style building is death, illness, loneliness and a lot of lies.

Mary Lennox (Dixie Egerickx) is orphaned in India after her parents suddenly die, and at first she appears cold and spoilt.

Her only friend is a ragdoll called Jemima who she callously throws in the river, declaring she’s “not a baby”. Like the volleyball Wilson in Castaway, the doll gets swept away by the waves. But unlike Tom Hanks, Mary does not try to save it.

She is collected by Mrs Medlock (Julie Walters), the housekeeper to her uncle Archibald Craven (Colin Firth) and is placed in a spooky bedroom that looks like every imaginative child’s worst nightmare.

Mary is given free rein of the estate’s grounds, where she finds a scruffy dog that she gives the same name as her drowned doll, Jemima, and befriends local boy Dickon (Amir Wilson).

She also meets her sickly, bed-bound cousin Colin (Edan Hayhurst) who she convinces to get some fresh air and finds the key to a locked garden that changes everything.

While the Frances Hodgson Burnett book that it’s based on is more than 100 years old, the story is strangely perfect for these tricky times — a selection of sad people who are constantly indoors find they feel a lot better hanging out in a garden.

And what a garden it is.

It’s a magical place where it’s always summer, the streams are clear, the flowers bright and there’s a very cute CGI robin. Although the children have the weight of the world on their shoulders — dead parents, illness, living in the creepiest house in the world, etc — there are glorious moments when they behave like joyful, innocent children in the beautiful secret garden.

You root for them. The main story is based on the kids, but it seems a great shame to waste the wonderful Walters and Firth, and give them such small parts.

This version of The Secret Garden has a few smiles and lot of beauty, it could do with not digging so deep into the serious side of life.

  • In cinemas and on Sky Cinema


  • COMEDY drama Don’t Look Up looks like an A-list bonanza – with Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Lawrence, Cate Blanchett, Meryl Streep and Timothée Chalamet signed up.
  • Coming To America 2, with Eddie Murphy, is set for Amazon in December.
  • George Clooney is currently working on an adaptation of John Grisham baseball novel Calico Joe, and may direct it.


R, 95mins 


YOU know something is funny when you watch it alone and still laugh out loud.

It’s a good barometer for comedy – you’re not being influenced by anyone or trying to fit in. Borat 2 passed the test, as I found myself guffawing solo at some of Sacha Baron Cohen’s most outrageous material.

The moustachioed journalist from Kazakhstan is back and this time he’s travelling around America with his daughter Tutar (Irina Nowak) who smuggled herself in in a crate.

Borat soon goes on a quest to give his daughter to Vice President Mike Pence, but when that doesn’t quite work out – after he dresses as Trump and throws her over his shoulder – he sets his sights on Rudy Giuliani. And my god, does he get him, in a prank which will – rightly – stain Giuliani’s character for ever.

Sadly, Baron Cohen doesn’t need to work anywhere near as hard as he did 14 years ago to find extreme bigoted opinions in the States, so he pushes the bar higher. Although incredibly sexist and anti-Semitic, there’s something oddly quaint about Borat being back in the US in their current climate. No matter what he says or does, it isn’t as bad as his target – the American political right.

And when intrusion of Covid-19 arrives into the story, Baron Cohen and director Jason Woliner adapt well by not making it the star of the show but a punchy cameo. This Borat is darker – but it will still have you laughing, cringing, gasping and high fiving all at once.


15, 98mins


THE poster for this film carries the warning: “Never steal a man’s second chance”.

Especially not if that man is played by Liam Neeson. And doubly so when, as in this thriller, he’s playing a former Marine – called Tom – who has robbed a dozen banks.

Anyone who has seen the Irish actor’s Taken movies will know Tom is not someone to be messed with. This is a man who knows how to punch, shoot and blow things up.

But Honest Thief doesn’t quite have Taken levels of violence. Having found love, Tom is now trying to go straight and has given up robbing.

He’s now doing his best to stay out of the way of trouble, even when it comes looking for him.

Anyone hoping to see some clever heist scenes will be disappointed, because Neeson doesn’t go around penetrating vaults.

Instead, the film’s plot is straight-up cat-and-mouse, between him and a couple of bent cops.

There isn’t anything original here and Neeson hasn’t had to rummage too deeply into his swag bag for this performance.

But it’s enjoyable seeing him let loose.

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