Writer-director Simon Aboud delivers a gentle comedy about an unlikely friendship that’s neither particularly beautiful, nor that fantastic, but not without considerable charm. Bella (Jessica Brown Findlay), is introduced as, “the oddest of oddballs.” Orphaned as a baby, saved by ducks, now grown into an obsessively ordered librarian, and aspiring children’s author, Bella faces eviction, unless she restores her London home’s neglected garden. Terrified by the unpredictability of nature, Bella is forced from her orderly, indoor world, into the wild outdoors, where she meets her neighbour – grouchy, wealthy widower, and inspired gardener, Alfie (Tom Wilkinson).
With its quirky characters, romantic subplot, fantasy elements and wry humour, it has the feel of a low-budget British Amélie. In fact, Bella’s character, wardrobe and moments of composer Anne Nikitin’s score are so reminiscent of Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s film, it often comes closer to heist than homage, only without the scintillating cinematography, dynamic direction, sparkling wit and imaginative flourishes of its French inspiration.
Melodramatic and predictable, the performances from the leads, and supporting cast, (Andrew Scott as hayfever-suffering Irish chef, Vernon; Jeremy Irvine as a batty mechanical-bird inventor; Anna Chancellor as Bella’s strict library-rule enforcing boss), ensure it bobs along pleasantly enough, as Bella is encouraged by Alfie to branch out into the natural world of her garden’s “beautifully ordered chaos.”
Slow but sweet, clichéd but charming, if whimsy’s your thing you’ll dig this offbeat, comedic, family-friendly, flight of fancy about friendship, finding yourself and blooming flower metaphors.
‘This Beautiful Fantastic’ Movie Times