Dare To Be Wild – Film Review by Fran Winston
Directed by: Vivienne de Courcy
Starring: Emma Greenwell, Tom Hughes, Alex Macqueen, Janie Dee, Christine Marzano, Alaa Safi
In cinemas: September 23rd
In this Olympic year it is worth remembering that all disciplines seem to have their own equivalent of the ultra competitive sporting spectacle. In the case of gardeners their “Olympics” is the Chelsea Flower Show. That is at the heart of this film which tells the story of Mary Reynolds (Greenwell) who was the first Irish Gold Medal Winner at the prestigious gardening event in 2002.
If you thought that plants and trees wouldn’t make for a very engaging film you’d be surprised. Personally I had no idea of the intricacies involved in entering a garden in the Chelsea Flower Show. Seemingly neither did Mary who having lost her job naively makes up her mind that she will win the Gold Medal in the contest despite knowing nothing about sponsorship or the logistics of getting a whole garden from Ireland to Chelsea. She was helped in no small part by her then romantic interest Christy Collard (played here by Victoria’s Tom Hughes). Having convinced herself that he was the only one who could assist her, she followed him to Ethiopia where he was working on a community project and convinced him to come back home (these scenes are absolutely beautifully shot). Obviously we all know the end result was her win but it is the work and sheer self belief that goes into attaining it that makes this so interesting.
I say interesting rather than entertaining because at times it feels like you are simply getting a blow by blow account of what it actually takes to do this kind of work. The romance between Mary and Christy seems almost secondary to her relationship with the plants and the earth. Hughes is rather stiff as Collard. This after all is the man who created Electric Picnic’s Body & Soul stage in recent years. He clearly has a sense of fun but Hughes plays him as po faced and self righteous. Also, I refuse to believe that there wasn’t an Irish actor available to play the role. Greenwell however is a delight as Mary (again though – were there no Irish actors available?) She really conveys the naivety and self belief that led to Mary’s victory and she actually looks like she gets her hands dirty from time to time. While the rest of the cast are wonderful (except a wogeously miscast Prince Charles character) this is very much her movie.
You don’t need an interest in gardening to appreciate this warm and sweet film. It’s not the most entertaining or action packed movie you will see but it will leave you feeling somewhat warm and fuzzy. The gardening jargon sometimes gets a bit much but you do find yourself fully invested in Mary’s story and if you are looking for a gentle drama that you can just sit back and relax with this is the movie for you.