Film & TV

Young at Heart Film Festival Review: This Beautiful Fantastic

An eccentric, OCD-suffering woman suffers from a gripping fear of plants, so when she is told she must clean up the garden or face eviction, she is at a loss.

First shown in Adelaide for the 2016 BBC First British Film Festival (read our previous review), This Beautiful Fantastic is on again this week at the Palace Nova, for the YAH Film Festival.

Simon Aboud has directed his own screenplay, a move which can have pitfalls, but has paid off in this instance. His gentle touch is apparent in both script and direction, with able assistance from cinematographer Mike Eley.

This delightful piece tells the story of an eccentric, OCD-suffering woman, Bella, who lives next door to a cantankerous old man, Alfie Stephenson. Bella works in a library but wants to be a children’s author. She also suffers from a gripping fear of plants, so when she is told she must clean up the garden or face eviction, she is at a loss. Other characters weave into this story such as Alfie’s cook Vernon, Bella’s love interest Billy, and Bella’s boss at the library, Miss Bramble.

Deceptively simple, this film rewards the viewer with layers of meaning and gentle, filmic poetry. It is about love, friendship, gardening and eccentricity in all its guises. Some commentators have described it as an adult fairytale. I don’t think it meets the criteria for “fairytale”. It is an adult’s film that follows the structure of a children’s book, running alongside the story which Bella is writing herself: the story-within-a-story approach.

Jessica Brown Findlay is perfect as Bella, avoiding making her too uptight and instead giving us a very believable character. Veteran actor Tom Wilkinson makes Alfie an instantly likeable man, even in his most grumpy moments; he gives us the character’s depths before the script lays them bare. Andrew Scott and Jeremy Irvine both bring a light touch to Vernon and Billy respectively. And the always-wonderful Anna Chancellor seems to relish her role as stereotypical “librarian” Miss Bramble.

I found myself utterly mesmerized by this gorgeous piece of storytelling. I laughed, I cried, I developed a strange horticultural urge.

If you missed This Beautiful Fantastic at the British Film Festival, then make sure to catch it this week. You will be amply rewarded!

Reviewed by Tracey Korsten
Twitter: @TraceyKorsten

Rating out of 10:  8

This Beautiful Fantastic will screen on 11 and 14 April for the Young at Heart Film Festival, running 10-16 April 2017 exclusively at the Palace Nova Eastend Cinemas.


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