This Beautiful Fantastic

There is love and wonder in unexpectedly falling over a hidden gem.

That’s exactly what I did on Saturday night.

Found a film that seems to have slipped under the radar. Despite its stellar cast.

This Beautiful Fantastic is a magical feast. That rarest of unicorns, the perfect modern fairy tale.

Fairy tales have a simplicity of message that makes them fiendishly difficult to write well.

“Bella Brown. There was nothing normal about the girl. She grew into the oddest of oddballs. Just her and her books.”

Simon Aboud, I take my bunnet off to you, and give you my heart. You nailed the genre.

This is the most simple, charming and magical film I’ve seen for a long time.

Think of a charming, quirky, ever so British, Amelie. A child-like, visual feast for adults.

Oddballs, wonderment, joy in simple things, transformation, life, love and loss.

“The true gardener can create more happiness propagating life from one seed, than a rich man could ever get from his perfect, rolling lawns.”

This Beautiful Fantastic is the tale of a young woman, Bella Brown (Jessica Brown Findlay) imprisoned in a world of repetition, rigid schedules and locked doors. Abandoned by her parents in a park and briefly raised by ducks before being sent to a Catholic orphanage, she grows up a solitary soul, painfully shy, fearful of nature and disorder.

Her clothes are black and grey, the tins in her cupboard – “food prison.” She has different toothbrushes for each day. She always checks the locks on her house and touches two door panels before leaving.

Yet somehow, against the odds, with a little bit of magic – she finds contentment.

From a neglected garden, to the most tender kiss, to a story about a flightless bird who dreams of flying.

Her path to freedom, love and fulfilment lies in relationships with three others who have their own special brands of oddness. Her irritable neighbour, Alfie Stephenson (the brilliant, Tom Wilkinson). Widowed, single dad and cook, Vernon (the even more brilliant Andrew Scott, proving there is no role he can’t turn his hand to). And inventor of Luna the mechanical flying bird, Billy (the impossibly handsome Jeremy Irvine).

They have a month to sort out a neglected garden. A wonderful metaphor for transformation and burgeoning life.

Like the archetypal, delightful fairy tale it is, characters are turned from enemies into allies. Each have their own story of love and loss.

The ending?

Well, I wouldn’t want to spoil that.

Released in 2016, well before the pandemic, This Beautiful Fantastic takes on a whole new meaning in today’s world.

Many of us are beginning to open the doors of our own self-imposed prisons, post covid.

Books, order, home working, a solitary existence governed by fear of disorder, germs and the outside world.

Maybe we need that bit of magic to enable us to move into community. To create fantastic gardens and to share stories we’re destined to write.

C’mon Bella.

Let go.

Surrender to the light.

Love and wonder arrive at exactly the right moment to revitalise us all.

“Life Can Bloom.”

“Into Something Beautiful.”

This Beautiful Fantastic, directed by Simon Aboud. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

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