This is an uplifting film that follows a modern-day fairytale about a quirky young woman, Bella Brown, who finally learns to face her fears with the help of a group of odd well-wishers.
We first meet Bella as an abandoned baby who is being kept warm by ducks beside a river until she is discovered by a local swimmer. We see glimpses of her peculiar quirkiness glimmer during her up-bringing in what appears to be a strict boarding school environment, and how misunderstood her obvious case of OCD is.
When we are introduced to her as an adult it is clear that Bella’s OCD has a firm hold on her day-to-day life: she maintains an impossible standard of cleanliness in her tiny flat, she struggles when leaving her home for fear that her front door is not in fact locked, and she maintains an unreasonable fear of flora and fauna meaning her backyard garden has become an overgrown jungle that she avoids completely. Thanks to her meddling, nosey neighbour, this neglect leaves her with a warning from her landlord, clean it up or face eviction.
The film has incredibly beautiful moments brought about through explorative cinematography, a suitably gentle yet quirky soundtrack and creative direction by Simon Aboud. For example, as we witness Bella discovering what a truly beautiful garden is (thanks, surprisingly, to her grumpy next door neighbour), the audience is presented with in and out of focus close-ups of stunningly multi-coloured flowers in bloom, complemented by a happy and gentle summer day melody, as we and Bella discover the possibility of nature’s beauty.
Unfortunately, despite all the positives, the film has been over-worked with unnecessary editorial embellishments that appear as attempts to boost its overall cuteness. From badly placed, fake-looking rainbows to unnecessary bizarre sparkles, these additions are simply not needed and take away from the simple, honest beauty of the connections between the characters.
The cast is a cleverly varied range of British character actors that almost all fulfil their roles with admirable idiosyncratic oddness. Downton Abbey’s Jessica Brown Findlay perfectly captures the timid, softly spoken and reserved Bella who we slowly witness flowering into a happy and healthy young woman who is no longer controlled by her mental illness.
Another star performer is renowned British actor Tom Wilkinson who, as Bella’s grumpy, old neighbour, transitions from her tormentor into her saviour. Stellar British actress Anna Chancellor creates many a laugh as Bella’s uptight, controlling and really quite terrifying library manager who, despite her minor role, steals every scene she’s in.
This Beautiful Fantastic, despite its moments of over-done cuteness, really is a lovely and quirky coming-of-age tale that will leave you with a slight smile as you ponder your next venture in the garden.
Reviewed by Georgina Smerd
Rating out of 10: 7