Simon Aboud (director)
Ipso Facto (studio)
05 March 2018 (released)
06 February 2018
This Beautiful Fantastic tells the story of Bella Brown (Jessica Brown Findlay), a peculiar librarian loner, who has ruptured the last nerve of her self-proclaimed ‘nemesis’ neighbour, Alfie (Tom Wilkinson), through her apprehensive unwillingness to tackle the overgrown muddle that once resembled her back garden. With support from her neighbour’s equally odd but lovable ex-housekeeper, Vernon (Andrew Scott), Bella reluctantly begins the mammoth task of bringing order to her garden.
Bella is odd, reclusive and obsessive – from her perfect display of toothbrushes (each labelled with the appropriate day of the week) to her immaculately stocked food cupboards and dustless doorframes. Alfie is irritable, brash and perpetually demanding when it comes to keeping a tidy but vibrant garden (think of a mean Monty Don). Not entirely unsurprisingly with this kind of set-up, as the film progresses and the state of the garden improves, the pair’s friendship blossoms.
Writer and Director Simon Aboud creates an overtly English and almost too-beautiful aesthetic for his characters to exist in. It is soon clear that the perfection in this high-definition, modern chocolate-box world is out of sync with the inner workings of our complex lead characters.
Findlay executes the character of Bella impeccably and it is a pleasure to watch the careful balance of humour and sincerity that Scott and Wilkinson deliver in their supporting roles. However, I thought that Bella’s love interest, Billy, played by Jeremy Irvine was a little less believable, a little more annoying, and not nearly as endearing as he could have been.
Overall, this is a delightfully charming film that carefully weaves a variety of anthropomorphic themes around the main focus of Bella’s garden. It is exquisitely shot with a simple, yet moving accompanying sound-track. Although modern in most aspects, there is certainly a timeless and almost enchanting feel to this tale of friendship, love and shrubs.