Film Scouts Reviews

"The Hanging Garden"

by Karen Jaehne

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"Quirky" is one of those words that damns with faint praise. Or is it damned faint praise? Something like that... at least, that's the feeling you come away with after seeing this strange little Canadian film. A glance at the cast of characters' names reveals Black-Eyed Susan, Dusty Miller, Laurel, Violet, Sweet William, etc., in other words a floral arrangement. But they're fairly wild, these flowers.

Surrealism lurks in this story of a family so incredibly dysfunctional that they can't even be dysfunctional in the usual ways. We meet them through the eyes of brother Sweet William, who has come home to Nova Scotia for the wedding of his foul-mouthed, vulgar sister, Rosemary. Being in the house again revives memories of brutality from his hard-drinking father and hard-working mother, as well as the opportunity to meet his little sister, Violet, born in the ten years he's been gone - without a letter or a phone call.

An episodic plot brings pleasant vistas of Nova Scotia, when the body is not hanging from the tree, a source of inconsistency that gets in the way of the story. It's not really hanging there; it just looks like it is, which means it's as good as there - as far as I'm concerned. But then it's not always there, and what does it mean?

By the time you've figured out that it's just symbolic and that's OK - it's OK, I'm OK - there comes a revelation that leaves you doing some genealogical diagrams to figure out how these characters are related. The ending comes off like some kind of country music joke about inbred back country folk. But you've got to be happy to see Sweet William get the hell outta there again, even with tomboy Violet in tow - although her complications are so interesting, she calls for another development and resolution. Maybe even another film.

The Hanging Garden is excellent Canadian fare, which always makes for terrific TV. This has the potential to spin-off into a series, and that's not a bad fate. It's better than many a Sundance fate.

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