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Movie Review by Alice Castle

Starring: Clive Owen, Helen Mirren, David Kelly, Warren Clarke, Danny Dyer
Director: Joel Hershman

Released less than a month after LUCKY BREAK comes another prison comedy – stroke – male buddy movie, Joel Hershman’s GREENFINGERS. Now, we’re all accustomed to the fact that British men have a few problems talking openly about their feelings and are only allowed to relate to each other when there is sport or alcohol involved – but the British male and his subtle sense of humour has long been a winning combination for PORRIDGE style drama/comedy. But where does the gardening come into it?

GREENFINGERS is based on a true story. The hero Colin, a lifer, played by Clive Owen, is sent to a low security open prison on good behaviour. He doesn’t seem to be exactly over the moon about his move to HMP Edgefield but then it’s quite difficult to fathom much at all about what he’s thinking, having perfected a blank “don’t touch me” kind of expression, which I’ve always thought Clive Owen portrays particularly well.

Colin avoids building up relationships with other prisoners, and is more inclined out of guilt than any genuine concern to check up on his elderly cellmate Fergus (David Kelly) who is sent suddenly into the prison’s hospital wing. “Bonding” of a fashion takes place and Colin is encouraged to plant some violet seeds given to him by the ailing Fergus – new life in spring and a new hobby for Colin.

If food is the new sex, then gardening is the new food. What shouldn’t be a particularly sexy subject – horticulture – is given a lovely cinematic debut in GREENFINGERS. You are drawn into the delight of watching grown bruisers enjoy the delphiniums in bloom and having dilemmas over selecting next season’s natural palate of colour for the borders. Equally delightful is the amiable prison warden played by Warren Mitchell and his wife, who invites the noted English eccentric garden expert, Georgina Woodhouse (Helen Mirren) and her daughter Primrose (Natasha Little – of THIS LIFE) over to the prison for some good PR. Before too long there’s romance amongst the rhododendrons – something about the posh girl, rough bloke dynamic that the British, and obviously the American Joel Hershman, have always found rather raunchy (Lady Chatterley perhaps!). Plus there’s an invitation from the Royal Horticultural Society to display at the Hampton Court Gardening exhibition.

Filmed in the Slaughters, a particularly lovely corner of the Cotswolds, GREENFINGERS is thoroughly enjoyable, very funny and touching in moments. It’s a makeover movie with a difference – and the soundtrack is also very good – perhaps having Trudie Styler as a Producer has meant some recording artists have been very generous with their copyright clearance!

4 out of 6 stars