Two words: Helen Mirren.
The film also stars Clive Owen in one of his first starring roles. The film’s producers is Trudie Styler, wife of pop star Sting. The talented British cast includes film veteran David Kelly, Warren Clarke, Danny Dwyer and Natasha Little. The film was written and directed by Joel Hershman, and based on a real life story of minimum security prisoners who enter and win several prestigious gardening competitions.
Colin is sent to a minimum security prison as part of a new philosophy on rehabilitation. Colin is not too friendly or motivated, until his elderly roommate gives him flower seeds as a Christmas present and forces him to plant them. In the spring, they are surprised that those flowers survive the tough English winter and thrived. Colin sees a bit of himself in the flowers, thriving against the odds.
The governor of the prison assigns Colin and fellow inmates to construct a flower garden to impress the prison hierarchy. Their creation is a success and gives the inmates a sense of accomplishment.
At the same time, the governor’s wife convinces Georgina Woodhouse (Mirren), a famous gardening expert to view the inmates’ garden. She is impressed and arranges for the inmates to assist her as part of a work-release program.
The second half of the film deals with the inmates’ entry in the Hampton Court Palace Flower Show, the most prestigious competition in England. Several problems develop including the burglary of the estate they worked at, the escape of an inmate, the death of an inmate, Colin falling in love with Woodhouse’s daughter, his parole and then return to prison, and the destruction of their flower show entry. Enough conflict to drive the film toward its conclusion.
This film is lighthearted and fun, a bit sentimental at times and rather light on dramatic tension. Critics were not kind to the film, although movie viewers were more impressed.
American audiences seem to need a reason to indulge in British cinema, although Mirren and Owen are two very good reasons. It Greenfingers too British? I don’t think so, in fact it has great charm like Lovejoy or Death in Paradise.
I found a lot of humor and warmth in the film, and entertaining performances from a talented cast. Owen turns in a very understated performance and his screen appeal was quite evident. Sadly, some of his later films sort of torpedoed his rising career. Mirren is delightful in her role, obviously having an enjoyable time in a very showy role.
Greenfingers could qualify as a comfort film. Light and full of warmth.