This Beautiful Fantastic

This Beautiful Fantastic
This Beautiful Fantastic
Directed by Simon Aboud
Starring Jessica Brown Findlay, Anna Chancellor, Andrew Scott, Jeremy Irvine and Tom Wilkinson
Available on Digital Download from March 5th, 2018
Watch on iTunes or Amazon

by Bernie C Byrnes

Bella Brown (Jessica Brown Findlay) dreams of writing and illustrating a successful children’s book. Abandoned as a child, consumed with OCD and a paralysing fear of flora and fauna, Bella is down but not out. When Bella is forced by her landlord to deal with her neglected garden or face eviction, she meets Alfie Stephenson (Tom Wilkinson), a cantankerous, loveless, rich old man who lives next door, and the most unlikely of friendships begins.

Starring an all-star cast featuring Jessica Brown Findlay (Downton Abbey, Harlots), Jeremy Irvine (The Railwayman, War Horse), Andrew Scott (Sherlock, Spectre, Pride), Anna Chancellor (Four Weddings and a Funeral, The Happy Prince), and two times Oscar-nominated Tom Wilkinson (Batman Begins, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel), the acting is, unsurprisingly, gorgeous.

The photography of This Beautiful Fantastic is gorgeous too. The friendship between the reclusive, agoraphobic young woman and the curmudgeonly old widower is set against a glorious backdrop of a beautiful garden in the heart of London where almost anything seems possible.

We first meet Bella as a baby where she has been abandoned in the middle of winter in the middle of Hyde Park. Her unlikely survival is thanks to the ducks that keep her warm until an eccentric old man discovers and rescues her. What happens next is a mystery until we re-join her in early adulthood working in a library for an awful boss played delightfully by Anna Chancellor. Bella then meets Vernon (Andrew Scott), who on the face of it is perfect love interest material, but for some inexplicable reason she totally ignores this fact. That aspect of the storyline is never really explained and it feels as if writer Simon Aboud (Comes a Bright Day) changed his mind half way through. Instead she falls for Billy (Jeremy Irvine), with only the briefest of possible suggestion of a love triangle.

If this feels like a slightly superficial, linear description of the romantic elements of the film, that is down to the fact that that’s pretty much how they are portrayed. Neither the potential love affair with Vernon nor the almost failed relationship with Billy are satisfyingly explored. Bella’s most significant relationship, although arguably not the most interesting, is with her father-figure of a neighbour Alfie (Wilkinson). In fact, Alfie’s relationship with Vernon holds far more intrigue but is never fully explored. The film hints throughout at symbolism and psychological depth but never really delivers. Add to that the fact that the book Bella eventually writes is quite poor and the film falls short of its promise.

A bit more portrayal of the internal life of the characters and changing the neighbour to a woman would make this beautifully photographed film fly. Don’t get me wrong, Tom Wilkinson is wonderful as Alfie, but given the two potential suitors are male and the only other female character of note is the crabby spinsterly librarian, a magical mother figure would have complemented the symbolism of nurturing a garden. This Beautiful Fantastic does what it does well, it’s magical, but maternal love would, in my opinion, have brought true magic to the piece and resonated far more profoundly.


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