Bella Brown is an odd duck. Abandoned as a baby and raised without parents, or a proper home, she relies on order and predictability to manage her days and nights. She works in a library and dreams of being a children’s author – if only she could think of a story.
The only aspect of her life that isn’t obsessively orderly is her back garden, due to a deep and abiding fear of…plants. I think. But anyway, the yard is neglected enough that her landlord threatens her with homelessness if she doesn’t straighten it up in a month’s time. During that month, Bella (Jessica Brown Findlay) will meet three men: a) the rude and grumpy old widow next door, Alfie (Tom Wilkinson) b) Alfie’s hard-working, unappreciated cook, also a widower, named Vernon (Andrew Scott), and c) Billy (Jeremy Irvine), a head-in-the-clouds inventor who haunts the library looking for inspiration.
This Beautiful Fantastic is sweet, and whether you find that a complimentary thing in a movie is up to you. It styles itself as a modern-day fairy tale, though I think that’s a bit of a reach. The story is a bit thin for that, though the characters are all fitting enough. But it IS a very pleasant way to tend to a blossoming if unlikely friendship between a reclusive young woman, and her nemesis – the cranky old guy next door. Set variously in a beautiful garden and a library. So very genteel.
The garden metaphor is painfully obvious of course. Get it? GET IT? Of course we do. Now back off with the lazy writing that still still somehow congratulates itself. But with some fine actors, it manages to be quite charming and a little offbeat. If your gag reflex for the saccharine is running sensitive these days, stay away. But if you want something kind of cute to do your taxes to, you could do worse.