I watched this movie at the Lido theatre yesterday with the compliments of library@esplanade; otherwise, I would have waited for the DVD.
Bella Brown (Jessica Brown Finlay) is an aspiring writer and reluctant librarian who is obsessed with every little thing in the world. (It reminds me of the typical behaviour of someone who is autistic or has the Asperger’s syndrome.) But her garden is largely neglected because she doesn’t like the outdoors. (Like me.) Her neighbour, Alfie Stephenson (Tim Wilkinson), berates her for murdering the plants.
Alfie’s cook, Vernon (Andrew Scott) leaves him to work for Bella, and Alfie has to think of a way to make her “give me back my cook”. She is given one month by the landlord to put the neglected garden in shape or she’ll have to vacate the premises. Alfie offers to help fix the garden in exchange for Vernon cooking his meals. Each time they are tending to the garden, there is lovely orchestra music in the background, even when it’s mowing the grass, such as Lennos Berkeley’s Seranade for Strings.
In the meantime, Bella becomes infatuated with a guy who builds mechanical animals, William Tanter, called Billy (Jeremy Irving) as he visits the library regularly for reference work. Their encounters at the library, under the stuffy nose of the library’s supervisor Bramble (Anna Chancellor) contains a lot of humour that must be witnessed to be appreciated. There is a sub-plot that would have smacked of stereotyping if not for the fine acting from all the the actors.
I like the way the themes of flowers and music come together: both are about the colour, depth and texture (‘It’s a world of beautiful chaos, not calamity’), noting the difference between chaos and calamity.
I also like the way the characterisation of Bella and Alfie comes through in simple ways; for eg. how Bella would ‘adopt’ a wild duck and even give it a name, how Alfie (depite his curmudgeon nature) would invite Bella to his house for afternoon tea and tell her about his younger days and his late wife and even help her in shaping up her garden, how they would share a dance together on one occasion and attend an outdoor concert on another occasion.
The ending comes as no surprise, but it is very well played out. I probably would borrow the DVD to watch it again!