The beginning of Dare to be Wild immediately makes the heart sink as the audience is told how a young Mary Renoylds “grew like a weed on the cliffs of Ireland.” This clunky and clichéd style will go on to characterise the rest of the film.
Although it is difficult to name many other films that revolve around garden design there are numerous focusing on humanity’s love affair with nature, most recently seen in The Kings of Summer or Into the Wild. But rather than following the example of these great films and letting the visuals speak for themselves, Dare to be Wild is stuffed with meaningless rhetoric on how man is nature and nature is man, which rather undermines the beauty of the gardens and landscapes seen throughout.
This true story of Mary Reynolds’ journey to winning the gold medal at the Chelsea Flower Show is one huge cliché filled with one stock character after another, with Mary herself coming across as a rather twee Celtic rose. There are times however when Greenwell’s portrayal is sincerely charming, yet she still manages, in a particularly eye-rolling moment, to swoon into the arms of the brooding love interest Christy Collard, played by Tom Hughes. But alas, he is “late for a purification meeting,” so the sexual tension is allowed to simmer on for a spontaneous trip to Ethiopia where the cinematography is undeniably beautiful.
However, this is not enough to save the film, with the choice to try and make a story about the Chelsea Flower Show a cinematic epic being particularly ill advised. Case in point was the rather ridiculous ‘spiritual’ link Reynolds has with nature through some sort of Celtic bond is both bizarre and totally unnecessary, and the clunky script and premise causes the film to feel both lazy and stale.
Image: Jai; flickr