Bella (Jessica Brown Findlay) a young woman with obsessive compulsive tendencies has just moved in next door to Alfie (Tom Wilkinson) a grumpy old widower. Alfie (who is very proud of his beautiful garden) blames Bella for the untended state of her garden, despite the fact that it looks to the viewer as though it's been neglected for a lot longer than Bella has lived there. Bella though hates plants and gardens due at least in part to traumatic early experiences. She would much rather lose herself in books and works at the local library, which she claims is only to fill time until her book is published, despite not yet having a real story for the book. However the landlord is putting pressure on her to tidy up the garden or she faces eviction.
So Bella enlists the help of Alfie and his former cook, Vernon (Andrew Scott) to put the garden to rights. Meanwhile she becomes distracted by charming and chaotic young inventor Billy (Jeremy Irvine) who spends a lot of time at the library. This, among other things, puts pressure on her at work, with her po-faced boss becoming increasingly exasperated by her.
Will this unlikely combination of people be able to come together to create a beautiful garden in the ridiculously short imposed timetable? Will Bella find inspiration for her children's book? Will the neighbours learn to live happily alongside each other?
This is a modern day fairy tale for all aspiring children's writers, inventors and gardeners. It's a lovely exploration of how nature and gardening can help bring people together and heal problems. It's consistently entertaining, sometimes very funny, sometimes very silly but always watchable. I suspect that it gives an overly optimistic sense of what can be achieved in a garden in one month of part-time inexperienced effort, but this needs to be read as metaphor and overview rather than gardening documentary to avoid disillusionment among the aspiring gardeners in the audience. I love the way the characters all eventually collaborate on various aspects of their lives and create a real community of intersecting interests. It's ultimately a very inspiring film for those with creative ambitions.
This Beautiful Fantastic is showing as part of the Edinburgh International Film Festival at: 1820, Thursday 29 June at Filmhouse and 1300, Sunday 2 July at Cineworld. You can book tickets here.
Here are links to the other reviews I've written of films seen in the festival:
God's Own Country.
Journey's through Time and Culture (review of Zer, Sami Blood and Donkeyote).
Two Films about our relationship with animals (review of Okja and The Challenge).
Leaning into the Wind.
My Entire High School Sinking into the Sea.
The Dark Mile.
Red Dog, True Blue.
Disclaimer: I have a press pass for the Edinburgh International Film Festival and attended press screenings of these films.