Either Americans don’t care what their neighbors’ homes look like, or we just don’t make as many movies about on the topic. Whichever it is, Simon Aboud’s whimsical yet slight This Beautiful Fantastic is the latest in the English Garden subgenre, in the vein of The Lady in the Van or A Man Called Ove (which is Swedish but still qualifies).
Set in what appears to be the 1980s, Bella (Jessica Brown Findlay) is an obsessive-compulsive recluse who works in a library but considers herself a writer first and foremost and is working on a book. (Not since Snowpiercer has a film required such extreme suspension of disbelief!) She’s also let her backyard become overgrown due to a fear of plants, so grumpy old horticulturalist neighbor Alfie (Tom Wilkinson), convinces the landlord to give her 30 days to clean it up or else face eviction.
Bella also finds an unlikely ally in Alfie’s disgruntled cook and housecleaner, young widower Vernon (Andew Scott, Sherlock’s Moriarty). Although it flirts with fantasy in its opening scene and hints at magical realism throughout, This Beautiful Fantastic is primarily a hangout film in which the only real surprise is that Bella and Alfie’s inevitable bonding happens in the second rather than the third act. But like a well-tended garden, it’s quite pleasant.
This Beautiful Fantastic
Opens Friday at the Opera Plaza Cinema.