UK Release Date: 5th March 2018
Runtime: 88 minutes
Director: Simon Aboud
Writer: Simon Aboud
Starring: Jessica Brown Findlay, Tom Wilkinson, Andrew Scott, Jeremy Irvine, Anna Chancellor
Synopsis: A reclusive young woman butts heads with her uppity neighbour when she lets her garden fall into disrepair and also finds romance with a scatterbrain inventor.
Alarm bells immediately start ringing for me when an indie ‘dramedy’ film starts with a fairytale-esque voiceover. When that voiceover refers to a bang-sporting female character as “the oddest of the odd”, those alarm bells become a deafening cacophony of red flags. It’s more or less in that vein that This Beautiful Fantastic continues, crafting a desperately quirky, sweater-wearing story of cosy British collaboration. The tweeness is grating, but it’s all a little too nice to be completely destestable – if that’s a compliment at all.
The aforementioned oddball is Jessica Brown Findlay‘s Bella, who has OCD tendencies, but only in the ‘ain’t mental illness an adorable character quirk?’ way beloved of syrupy movies and sitcoms. Her next door neighbour is the comically curmudgeonly Alfie (Tom Wilkinson), who reports Bella to their landlord over the state of her garden when she somehow wins the services of Alfie’s personal cook Vernon (Andrew Scott). The landlord gives her a month to fix it, or he will turf her out. Inconveniently, this all happens at the same time as Bella is drawn to inventor Billy (Jeremy Irvine), who spends his days blindly bumbling around the library where she works.
It’s often an exhausting experience to watch This Beautiful Fantastic, which is an over-bearing onslaught of saccharine schamltz. Findlay, who has been so brilliant in films like The Riot Club, is wasted with the epitome of a stock Manic Pixie Dream Girl, existing only to improve the men around her. Irvine’s cartoonishly shambling inventor is a mere caricature until he meets her and Wilkinson’s green-fingered Scrooge practically leaps at the chance to help her turn her tangle of brown weeds into a strange terraced-house Eden. Andrew Scott, meanwhile, is baffling as a man with two small children who is still happy to leave his well-paying job to work for free in the home of a stranger.
No one in this movie is even an approximation of a human being, which only serves to make its quasi-fairytale style more infuriating. Work only intrudes into these people’s lives when the narrative demands it and Irvine’s job seems to be sitting in a shed making strange mechanical animals, which doesn’t appear to be a particularly lucrative line of work. Money is merely a minor inconvenience to these people, who have hours to spare in order to potter around gardens spouting pseudo-poetic nonsense at each other.
It’s tough to get angry, though, because everything about This Beautiful Fantastic is really lovely. For the most part, Simon Aboud‘s second feature is a story of people being nice to each other, and there seems to be little reason to hate that, though the movie tries really hard. The story is a work of bare-bones drama formula, complete with Chekhov’s health condition and a ludicrous twist involving identical twins that can only induce groans. If you have a high quirk tolerance, then This Beautiful Fantastic might be worthy of a whirl but, otherwise, steer well clear.
Pop or Poop?
The obvious metaphor of a burgeoning garden proves, shockingly, to be the least infuriating thing about This Beautiful Fantastic, which is as desperately quirky as Zooey Deschanel cooking an avocado lunch while wearing an upcycled bin bag. It’s not without charm and the colour palette has a folksy element of fun, but the narrative groans under the weight of its own sentimentality.
Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.
This Beautiful Fantastic is available on VOD platforms, including iTunes, from March 5.