Grow Your Own

Grow Your Own


Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

How to grow your own middle-of-the-road, middle-England comedy drama. First take a situation that is peculiarly British – bowling, darts, bingo or, in the case of this latest by-the-numbers entry in the genre, allotments.

Take some ‘little Englander’ seed – grumpy middle-aged men are best – and plant it in the worked over mulch of every ‘gentle’ comedy drama since the dawn of time (to include, but not be limited to, Calendar Girls, The Full Monty, Blackball and House!).

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Then fork in some plot development. This comes courtesy of several refugee families, each with their own story, who are given plots on the allotment and are, of course, initially treated with suspicion and hostility by the locals.

But, once the whole lot is sprinkled with the threat of a nasty big company (in this case a mobile phone firm), who endanger the idyll, the stage is set for people to address their prejudices and realise that everyone is the same beneath it all.

Director Richard Laxton, who has a long resume of TV series, should stick to the small screen until he can manage to summon up at least a little cinematic ambition. This derivative drama might have worked quite well as a four-part mini Sunday night series for the BBC. As a film, however, it fails on almost every count.

This isn’t the fault of the actors. A raft of British character stars, including Philip Jackson, Omid Djalili, Benedict Wong and John Henshaw, all do their best with the script. But the plot is so reductive and the humour so gentle, it’s hard to raise any enthusiasm. Also, surprisingly, since this was scripted by no lesser body than Frank Cottrell Boyce (Millions, 24 Hour Party People) much of the script is clunky, with one or two lines unintentionally funny.

The refugees are also little more than reductive ciphers – including an African woman, whose husband is dead and a traumatised Chinese refugee and his family – so that everything reeks of cliche.

According to the press notes, the film was originally conceived as a documentary about a scheme in Liverpool, which gave asylum seekers a plot of land as part and parcel of treating them for trauma. That would probably have been a film worth seeing. Sadly, this isn’t.

Reviewed on: 01 Jun 2007
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Grow Your Own packshot
Allotment stuffed shirts learn some tolerance thanks to an influx of refugees.
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Director: Richard Laxton

Writer: Frank Cottrell Boyce, Carl Hunter

Starring: Philip Jackson, Benedict Wong, Omid Djalili, Eddie Marsan, Olivia Colman, Roland Manookian, Joanna Scanlan, John Henshaw, Sarah Hadland, Pearce Quigley, William Atkinson

Year: 2007

Runtime: 97 minutes

BBFC: PG - Parental Guidance

Country: UK


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If you like this, try:

Calendar Girls
The Full Monty