Political Film Society - Greenfingers

PFS Film Review

GreenfingersThe English are inveterate gardeners, proud of turning adverse soil into lush and manicured panoramas of color. Based on a true story, Greenfingers focuses on Colin Briggs (played by Clive Owen), who has spent much of his life in prison for accidentally murdering his brother who was sleeping with his girlfriend. One day he is transferred to Edgefield, a prison without walls, under the compassionate supervision of Governor Hodge (played by Warren Clarke). Every inmate must perform work so that he will have job experience upon release. Indifferent to the new surroundings, he refuses to volunteer for any assignment, despite friendly advice from his roommate Fergus Wilks (played by David Kelly). Accordingly, Hodge assigns him to building maintenance, the least desirable option. At Christmas, Wilks gives Briggs a seed packet. Briggs plants the seeds in a space protected by several trees, and in the spring lovely flowers emerge. One day, a soccer ball hits the flowers, to Briggs’s chagrin. When he expresses displeasure, the inmate stomps on the flowers, occasioning a scuffle. However, Hodge now realizes that Briggs has ambitions of being a gardener, so he is reassigned to the job along with his soccer-playing friends. In due course, the grounds at Edgefield are transformed miraculously into a beautiful garden, a fact that comes to the attention of Georgina Woodhouse (played by Helen Mirren), the author of many books on gardening and narrator of the television show on the annual Hampton Court gardening competition. She promises them a chance to exhibit at the next competition, while her daughter Primrose (played by Natasha Little) falls in love with Briggs. On Georgina’s recommendation, two male lovers hire the inmates to create a garden for them, but when one is falsely accused of stealing a priceless work of art, he escapes, and the chance for the Hampton Court exhibition is canceled. Briggs is paroled, but commits the same crime to return to Edgefield so that he can resume gardening. The following year, the inmates are allowed to exhibit at Hampton Court. When they do not win a prize, they are disappointed, as is Hodge. Summoned by the queen, who believes that they were robbed of the top honors, the film ends as they are escorted into Hampton Court Palace and titles tell us that subsequently prison inmates won many awards in gardening competitions. Interestingly, before the screening, I had a discussion with a person in the row in front of me about the death penalty. I disagreed as she opined that murderers should be executed, using eye-for-an-eye logic, believing that their lives served no useful purpose after they were convicted. The movie that we were about to see, I then indicated, might have something on the subject. Indeed, she was nonplused by the message of the film. Directed by Joel Hershman, the Political Film Society has nominated Greenfingers for best film exposé and best film on human rights. MH

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