Movie Review: “This Beautiful Fantastic” is ever so English, and just above average


They didn’t have a word for it, not one that had the right measure of cute, quaint and sentimental blended in. So the English invented “twee.”

It was made for movies such as “This Beautiful Fantastic,” a quirky-cute English romance about an orphan rescued by ducks, a grumpy-poetic old man rescued by an adorable new neighbor and a garden.

Oh so English. Ever so twee.

In writer-director Simon Aboud’s confection, Bella Brown, played by Jessica Brown Findlay (“Downton Abbey,” “Winter’s Tale”) is a foundling kept warm by a flock of ducks until she was discovered by the English park lake and whisked away to a Catholic orphanage.

Years later, she’s grown up with a lifelong aversion to nature, a morbid OCD fear of disorder and the perfect job for someone with those traits — junior librarian and aspiring children’s fiction writer.

But when she’s not being shushed and scolded by the metaphorically named Bramble (Anna Chancellor), she keeps a tidier than tiny house. Her over-organized pantry is like “a food prison,” her one visitor notes.

Her crusty, twinkly and bookish old neighbor narrates our story, and you have two guesses as to who plays him. No, not Jim Broadbent. Tom Wilkinson.

Alfred “Alfie” Stevens is a bully and a brutal wit. It doesn’t matter how neat Bella keeps the inside of the house,  it’s the garden this “horticultural terrorist” has let go that enrages him.

“You have squandered everything Nature has given you!”

He must force her into the yard, into the dirt, into “the beautifully ordered chaos.”

fantastic2His Irish cook (Andrew Scott) is sympathetic, widowed with two little girls, and smitten. And Vernon-the-cook isn’t alone. There’s this odd duck (ahem) at the library, a noisy/rule-breaking nerd (Jeremy Irvine) with a thing for artist inventors who is enchanted by Bella, and has more of her attention.

Aboud, whose first feature was a heist picture “Comes a Day,” and is best known as Paul McCartney’s son-in-law, unravels this plot in the most predictable ways. Bella’s magical-realism orphanhood is a non-starter, and introducing Bella’s desire to learn Gaelic may be a dead end. Why exactly does she wear only greys and blacks?

But everything else in this sweet nothing of a romance you see coming a furlong away.

Still, Findlay and Scott don’t force their charm on us, Wilkinson makes the aphorisms, anecdotes and literary quotations poetic and warm. So much of it takes place in the flowers and brambles of a garden that this verdant movie smells like spring.

And Aboud has one character utter the most revealingly English line I’ve ever heard in a screen comedy, one that can be applied to the slight charms of his little romance.

“To say ‘No’ would be rude.”


MPAA Rating: PG for some thematic material and language

Cast: Jessica Brown Findlay, Tom Wilkinson, Andrew Scott, Anna Chancellor

Credits:Written and directed by Simon Aboud. A Samuel Goldwyn release.

Running time: 1:32

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