Streaming Spotlight: in the garden

Seven films to welcome in the summer

by Jennie Kermode and Amber Wilkinson

Summer is here, and it’s time to get out and enjoy the sunshine. If you enjoy pottering around in the garden but need something to relax with as the day turns towards evening, we’ve got seven great gardening-themed films for you to enjoy, all easy for UK readers to watch from the comfort of home.

Taming The Garden
Taming The Garden Photo: Dogwoof

Taming The Garden - Apple+ TV

Amber Wilkinson writes: The ‘garden’ at the heart of Salomé Jashi's documentary is certainly far from average. It belongs to Georgia’s billionaire former prime minister Bidzina Ivanishvili, who has created a dendrological park from ancient trees uprooted and transported from elsewhere. Her film - which is filled with surreal moments, including the site of a tree being carted across an expanse of water - focuses on the human impact of this transplantation, as many Georgians find they're paying a higher price than they thought as they wave off their trees. A film that leaves us to form our own opinions, it also has a mythic quality, as Jashi told us: “We're already in another world where a tree moves where the axis has shifted, where, where everything can be possible, where something else happens that is not part of the contemporary world right now. With this approach, we try to build this fairy-tale kind of narrative.” The trees are certainly moving, in more ways than one.

Little Shop Of Horrors
Little Shop Of Horrors

Little Shop Of Horrors - Apple+ TV, Amazon, Google Play

It’s difficult to do much gardening when you live in the bowels of the city. Working in a flower shop, Audrey (Ellen Greene) dreams of living somewhere that’s green. her colleague Seymour (Rick Moranis) has always longed to impress her, and finally gets the chance when, following an unexpected total eclipse of the sun, he discovers a strange and unusual plant. Soon he’s on his way to fame, fortune and his very own gardening show, but unfortunately – as those familiar with the Roger Corman original will know – there’s a catch. The plant only thrives on one thing: human flesh. There are two versions of this stunningly choreographed 1986 musical, with very different endings, but if you pay attention, you’ll notice that the plants always win. There’s a lot of B-movie inspired fun, with a fantastically animated monster, along the way.

Master Gardener
Master Gardener

Master Gardener - Freevee, Rakuten TV, Amazon

For a garden to reach maturity and truly come into its own takes more than one human lifetime. In order to perfect the art of gardening, an individual must be prepared to look beyond their own lifetime, to invest in something bigger than themselves. That awareness underlies ever aspect of Paul Schrader’s story about a former far right agitator (Joel Edgerton) who has submitted himself to cultivation (in more than one way) by Sigourney Weaver’s sharp-eyed, old-moneyed landowner, as he tends her family garden. Their thriving arrangement runs into predictable trouble when she asks him to take on her mixed-race niece as an apprentice, and the slow development of US society also comes under the microscope. A character study, revenge story and examination of troubled masculinity this doesn’t always hang together, but incorporates some impressive work and will intrigue Weaver fans.

Cuernavaca
Cuernavaca

Cuernavaca - Amazon, Apple+ TV

A coming-of-age tale which sees its young hero plunged into an unfamilar world after the death of his mother, this gorgeously shot Mexican film, also known as Seeds, sees young Andy (Emilio Puente) struggling with questions of identity and belonging at his grandmother’s remote country home. With his father mysteriously absent and only his aunt, who has Down syndrome, taking a serious interest in his welfare, he is left alone to wander the lush gardens and orchards of the estate, gradually learning how they are cultivated as he develops a crush on lean, frequently shirtless gardener Charly (Diego Alvarez Garcia). A little too young to understand his experience as sexual, he is immersed in romantic longing, but Charly is an irresponsible young man with some growing up of his own to do. Writer/director Alejandro Andrade weaves a beguiling tale but doesn’t sanitise life’s difficult realities.

Glasshouse
Glasshouse

Glasshouse - Amazon Prime, Freevee, Shudder

At the centre of a green island in a vast, dusty white desert, the glasshouse is a place of refuge, managed by a single family who spend each day tending their garden, their faces obscured by plastic-wrapped bonnets. To breathe the air would be to risk contracting the plague which has laid waste to civilisation – a plague which destroys the memory. Because of the uncertainty that this brings to bear, the tale that unfolds is full of mysteries. Who is the stranger who has somehow made his way across the desert to join them? Could he be a long lost brother? Director Kelsey Egan told us that she wanted to explore the contrast between the image of women as delicate creatures and the raw, ugly realities of subsistence living in which nothing can be wasted and we must all eventually become plant food.

A Better Life
A Better Life

A Better Life - Amazon

Amber Wilkinson writes: Immigration continues to be a thorny issue globally and Chris Weitz's indie drama brings home the problematic inflexibility of the system in the US through the tale of one family that owes a debt to The Bicycle Thieves. Single dad Carlos (Damián Bichir) is trying to build the ‘better life’ of the title for his son Luis (José Julián) in the US and, although Carlos is an illegal migrant, Luis was born in the country and so has every right to stay. Working in the black economy, the retirement of his boss brings an unexpected opportunity but things don't go according to plan. The characters are carefully crafted so that, through Luis, this also becomes a story of grappling with cultural identity. Speaking about the Bicycle Thieves influence, Weitz told us: "The bones of this movie are really very similar to The Bicycle Thieves. The big difference is that the son is old enough to be an incredible pain in the ass. And why? Why is he? Well the social reasons for that are explored here."

Silent Running
Silent Running

Silent Running - Sky, Amazon, Google Play

Today, most people are aware of the damage being done to ecosystems by climate change and pollution. Back in 1972, it was very different. Douglas Trumbull’s visionary science fiction film sounded an early warning. It stars Bruce Dern as an ecologist protecting what might be Earth’s very last surviving plant life, in giant greenhouse gardens floating through space. When he is ordered to destroy them, he has to make a decision which, either way, will have terrible consequences. Inspired in part by 2001: A Space Odyssey, one which Trumball had previously worked, the film succeeds in capturing some of that same epic vision, even if Dern’s fragile, troubled character is at odds with what most viewers will expect of a hero. Still, his very human experience provide relatable context for a story about one of the biggest issues humankind will ever face, inviting us to reflect on all of our duty to be careful gardeners.

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