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By: Paul Schrader
Administered by: Paul Schrader
Starring: Joel Edgerton, Sigourney Weaver, Quintessa Swindle, Esai Morales
Watch the trailer
A meticulous horticulturist is devoted to tending the grounds of a beautiful estate and tending to his employer, a wealthy friend.
It is a well made movie. Although the story is short, there is a lot happening between the lines. It’s a movie you love even more after it’s over when you start thinking about what it did and what it meant. Edgerton does an impressive job as a man who has reformed his life and thrown himself into the garden. The way this movie frames the story and places the characters in each shot reflects his deliberateness and passion for his craft.
Look at it.
Shredder’s last three released movies seem to have a pattern. They focus on a character whose carefully planned world is turned upside down. This movie fits that description, as does The Card Counter and First Reformed.
It begins with Narvelle (Joel Edgerton) talking about the idea of a formal garden. I initially thought it was a period piece based on Narvell’s appearance, profession and responsibilities, but this is present day. Narvel takes this job very seriously. At one point he walks through the garden barefoot because he has truly become one with the earth. The garden is a whimsical and expensive pastime, but I guess it’s a folly for wealthy dowager Norma (Sigourney Weaver).
Norma asks Narvell to take her granddaughter Maya (Quintessa Swindell) as an apprentice. I assumed it would be a situation where Maya is disinterested in the job but begins to appreciate it and Narvel’s commitment to the craft. Norma seems completely indifferent to even meeting Maya. It certainly looks like bigotry.
|Sigourney Weaver, Joel Edgerton as Norma, Narvel
This movie delivers a surprise. There’s a reason Narvel always wears a turtleneck. He was a member of a militant organization. He seems reformed, and his interactions with Maya seem fine. How did he end up in this garden, and does Norma know about his past? Although Narvel and Norma are very comfortable with each other, the class divide is always clear. Norma seems a bit of a classist, which makes you wonder how much she knows about Narvel.
Maya is running from the past, and Narvel realizes it’s too good. That growing closeness causes jealousy in Norma. Although he seems to see the narwhal as an object, something like his garden that exists for his entertainment and show off. I imagine it must be hard for Narvell to let people in with his past.
A garden invasion requires Narwhal to make repairs in time for a garden party. It must be an allegory with the narwhal and the garden. A ruined garden looks bad, but plants are resilient. They grow and can still contribute. As Narvell has worked deliberately with the garden, he has persevered in changing his life and perspective. There is also a parallel with Narvel and Norma. Her past represents Norma’s extreme line of vision. Norma has contempt, and it has reactions, if not hatred.
|Sigourney Weaver, Quintessa Swindell play Norma, Maya
It is a well made movie with an interesting story. Everything about this movie is intentional, from the characters to how it frames the characters with a distance between them that means a lot. Narvel and Maya become close which is an unlikely thing. When Narvel realizes his past, his vision of the past makes it difficult for her to trust him.
Easy comparison is American History X As both the main characters are reformed racists, but the movies are after very different things. American History X It is about society and how an idea propagates and consumes. master gardener Focuses on a specific character’s journey. The scars of his past are both internal and external, but he realizes his mistakes and finds a way to redirect his hatred into a passion for gardening.