This Beautiful Fantastic
The best children’s movies have something for everyone – kids and adults alike – but their emphasis is generally towards the younger audience. However, in This Beautiful Fantastic, written and directed by Simon Aboud, we have a kids’ film made for grown-ups.
Bella (Jessica Brown Findlay) is a librarian and aspiring children’s author living by herself. Though her house is comfortable and organised on the inside, her garden is a messy wreck. Since birth, she has been afraid of nature and doesn’t go near it, but when the landlord comes round and sees the wilderness outside, Bella is given one month to tidy it – otherwise, she’ll be evicted. With the help of her neighbour, Dickensian grump Alfie (Tom Wilkinson) and his intelligent Irish chef Vernon (Andrew Scott), she cleans up her garden.
This Beautiful Fantastic can’t quite decide what it wants to be. Tenant evictions and gardening tips are mature problems, and not issues of interest to the younger ones. In fact, kids barely appear in this film at all. The only visible childishness is in Bella’s character, and Mike Eley’s cinematography is geared towards her glossy, magical view of the world. The people she encounters exhibit the fanciful (yet recognisable) eccentricities common in children’s literature, viewed completely from her perspective. The characters appeal to a young audience, but the story resonates with adults.
The picture shines most in the scenes between Bella and Billy (Jeremy Irvine), who bear similar levels of endearing social awkwardness. Although some of Irvine’s lines resemble those of a serial killer, the dialogue between them is sweet and charming, often beautifully connecting the real with the fanciful. But the movie is too sweet, like pouring tea into a mug of sugar – to the point where too many conflicts are resolved with disappointing ease. And aside from Findlay’s lovely performance, appearing as a vaguely anxious but confident wallflower, Aboud doesn’t delve far into Bella’s character. We even have to be reminded that she’s a writer, despite suffering little writerly angst.
This Beautiful Fantastic is nice, adorable, and bubbling with infectious charm, but trembles with its story. Bella might be filled with childish awe and wonder, but her problems appeal only to boring grownups, and even those older viewers may be deterred by the scenes for the kids. Who, then, is this film for?
This Beautiful Fantastic is released digitally on 5th March 2018.
Watch the trailer for This Beautiful Fantastic here: