Inspired by real events. Colin Briggs (Clive Owen), nearing the end of a long sentence for murder, is transferred to the minimum security open prison in the English Cotswolds. When he is given an unwanted Christmas present of plant seeds by fellow inmate Fergus Wilks (David Kelly), he plants them begrudgingly in the harsh, infertile soil, and much to his surprise, they bloom. The prison governor is so impressed that he commissions Colin, Fergus and three inmates to cultivate a garden. Also impressed is gardening author and television personality Georgina Woodhouse (Helen Mirren), who sponsors them for Hampton Court, the pinnacle of garden shows. As Colin flexes his
‘greenfingers’, he finds love with Georgina’s daughter Primrose (Natasha Little).
Review by Louise Keller:
You know when a film is so delicious that you feel like applauding at the end? That’s how I felt about
Greenfingers, a wonderfully enjoyable British comedy about finding beauty in unexpected places. The story may be fictional, but the seed for director/writer Joel Hershman germinated from real events published in a New York article about seven prisoners who won gold at the Hampton Court Palace Flower Show. Hersham has concocted a compelling story with marvellous characters and a top cast headed by Clive Owen, Helen Mirren and David Kelly (Waking Ned Devine). Owen revels in portraying characters that carry baggage and have a past and here, as Colin, he is so ashamed of his past that he is unable to even talk about it. In fact, one of the most moving scenes occurs when Colin is about to be released on parole, and finally reveals his crime to Kelly’s old codger Fergus Wilks. It’s a lump-in-the-throat moment, with Colin facing the door, avoiding eye contact. But Wilks’ response is equally touching. Kelly is fabulous as the lifer who becomes Colin’s catalyst for change. Mirren is divine as the gardening diva, and I couldn’t help but think what a lot of fun costume designer Frances Tempest must have had designing her always-floral wardrobe of hats, dresses and suits. Flower-power indeed! The picturesque locations of the Cotswolds and Surry are the perfect contrast to the drab prison settings, and there we watch Colin turn from a prickly thorn to a man who knows where he’s going. Greenfingers is overtly funny, the comedy evolving naturally from situations and circumstance. The laughs are never forced and are countered by the bitter-sweet harshness of life’s ironies. Just imagine the prisoners being picked up in a burgundy and grey rolls Royce for their daily toils. Colin and Primrose’s (Natasha Little, lovely) love story blooms just like the roses, with a few thorns and droughts to overcome along the way. Although at first glance you may think there are close resemblances with Saving Grace, for my money - although the themes are totally different - the parallels are closer with Mean Machine, which has a similar evolution of character. As fresh as a daisy and seductive as a garden in spring, Greenfingers is easy to dig.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Greenfingers could have been such a load of garden manure, had it not been for some earthy direction, clever casting and very good writing. Take a bow Joel
Hershman. And take a bow the entire cast, who avoid all the trapdoors of caricature, turning up as fresh new people we are happy to meet. Clive Owen, who has rapidly become England’s early Michael Caine of the new millennium (with a dash of young Albert Finney and Robert Mitchum thrown in) stays hard and harsh enough to avert the schmalz factor, and Hershman’s direction is so well paced that we glide through a series of plot points without taking breath – like the romantic subplot, which works well as the conduit for Colin’s emotional blossoming. Plenty of humour helps oil the really simple and familiar story (hardened prisoners turn over a new leaf, sort of thing) but it’s the sheer simplicity of it that finally works best. If Billy Elliott made you want to start dancing, this will send you out into the garden.
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CAST: Clive Owen, Helen Mirren, David Kelly, Warren Clarke, Danny Dyer, Adam Fogerty, Paterson Joseph, Natasha Little
PRODUCER: Trudie Styler, Travis Swords, Daniel J. Victor
DIRECTOR: Joel Hershman
SCRIPT: Joel Hershman
CINEMATOGRAPHER: John Daly
EDITOR: Tariq Anwar, Justin Krish
MUSIC: Guy Dagul
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Tim Hutchinson
RUNNING TIME: 87 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Polyphony
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: Sydney/Melbourne: September 5, 2002
VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: Sony Pictures
VIDEO RELEASE: May 11, 2005