This is a supremely sweet movie. Charming, quirky, quaint, and you will feel good for the rest of the day.
Bella Brown (a name from a fairy tale in my opinion), is an agoraphobic, OCD shut-in who only ventures from her house to go to her job at the local library. She is an orphan, having been found as a baby in a carrier in London’s Hyde park in the middle of the winter (the ducks kept her warm by sitting on her which, to be honest, is one of the cutest things I’ve ever heard).
Her neighbour, the wealthy and cantankerous (but obviously lovely-at-heart) Alfie Stephenson loathes Bella. As a recluse who hate nature for how disorganised it is, Bella has understandably neglected her garden to the point where it could be considered a natural English rainforest. Eventually she is forced to tidy it up after her landlord threatens her with eviction if she doesn’t clean things up. Thus begins the story of Bella’s emergence from her home and her opening up to new (and altogether lovely) people.
Jessica Brown Findlay plays Bella with the same sort of cuteness as a shy puppy. She is quiet and spooks easily like a deer and holes herself away in her house like a mouse.
Andrew Scott plays Vernon, an Irish single-father of two identical red-headed girls with very Irish names (he even speaks Irish-Gaelic at one point). It was a little strange to see him play a caring father after knowing him as the psychotic criminal-mastermind in Sherlock.
The most important character (besides Bella) would be her neighbour Alfie. His transformation from hateful old man to grumbly lovable granddad-figure mirrors Bella’s growth from timid dormouse to strange-but-sweet… well I can’t think of another animal comparison but she certainly becomes her own person who, while not perfect, is now happy.
A concern I have about the film is how it portrays Bella’s agoraphobia and OCD. They’re actual mental illnesses and the film presents them as loveable character quirks. I don’t really think it’s that big of a deal in the film. I mean the story is about her coming out of her shell with the help of the wonderful people she befriends and they all have their own issues. Vernon is a struggling single father who is sad over the death of his wife and Alfie is a lonely, bitter old man.
I said earlier that this film was sweet and it is certainly that but the problem is it’s so sweet it’s almost saccharine. It feels self-aware, as if Simon Aboud (the writer and director) watched a bunch of Richard Curtis films and other quirky English dramas and set out to recreate them. The odd-but-loveable recluse, the grumpy neighbour, the kind single father with two cute daughters, the scary librarian boss called Miss Bramble (a name which I’m sure comes from a Beatrix Potter story); there is even an eccentric and nerdy but still handsome inventor who comes to the library each day to research Leonardo da Vinci schematics. Everything is so obviously sweet about this film that I suspect the motif of rain (and its beauty) is to wash away all the sugar (scathing I know).
But despite all that, this isn’t a Richard Curtis film. It’s not supposed to be Notting Hill or Love Actually or About Time. It’s This Beautiful Fantastic. It’s not perfect, but it makes you feel good as you watch it and it looks beautiful. There is something special about English cottages and their gardens. I watched this film on a rainy day by myself on my day off and it was absolutely perfect. I prefer my own company over others (with one or two exceptions) and I absolutely love the rain. So a movie which talks about the beauty of rain, in the middle of a beautiful lush garden really touched places of my heart that aren’t often exposed.
My advice is to watch This Beautiful Fantastic. While it’s not everyone’s thing (not everyone is into charming romantic English dramas), it’s a pretty film, it’s inoffensive, and you will feel warm and happy after watching it. Best watched with a cup of tea, some biscuits, a blanket and, if you prefer, someone to cuddle up with.