Movie Review: “This Beautiful Fantastic”

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Good morning, friendly readers! It’s good to be back on the blog today with some “regular content,” though I do have one little note on my VA business…which I’ll save for the end of this post πŸ˜‰ In the meantime, let’s get into this movie review. It’s a particularly lovely one.

There are some movies I enjoy because they’re action-packed and genuinely entertaining (Spider-Man: No Way Home comes to mind). There are some movies I enjoy simply because they make me laugh (The Lego Movie, or Did You Hear About the Morgans?), and some I enjoy because they echo my lifelong love for the epic and the courageous (The Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, and even A Quiet Place).

But then there are some movies I love because they speak to my love for quiet, beauty, and simplicity. I’m thinking of Miss Potter, Little Women, Paterson…and now This Beautiful Fantastic*, a film my family and I discovered right before Christmas.

A young woman who dreams of becoming a children’s book author makes an unlikely friendship with a cantankerous, rich old widower.

–IMDB synopsis

I mean, not only is that one of the most concise synopses I’ve ever read, but my reasons for loving this movie should be pretty obvious. A writing heroine, plus an intergenerational friendship? Oh, yes: this movie, released in 2016, is definitely my kind of story.

But part of what makes This Beautiful Fantastic* so compelling is another facet unmentioned by this synopsis: Bella Brown (played with whimsical sensitivity by Jessica Brown Findlay of Downton Abbey fame) is an orphan with clear symptoms of OCD. And I’m not talking about the OCD with which we jokingly self-diagnose ourselves whenever we’re annoyingly tidy or germaphobic. I’m talking about clinical OCD. Bella is riddled with anxiety, agonizingly shy, orderly to a troubling extreme, and terrified of the outdoors. On the other hand, she’s also imaginative, possessed of an excellent memory, and far kinder than her reclusive lifestyle might suggest.

While Bella’s rented London home is meticulous on the inside, its backyard garden is a true wilderness–not to mention a hazard. This drives her grouchy old neighbor, Mr. Stephenson (Tom Wilkinson), beyond exasperation, and he bullies her landlord into threatening eviction if she doesn’t clean up her garden in 30 days. Distraught but determined, Bella ventures outdoors in protective getup that looks more like a Victorian mourning ensemble.

Mr. Stephenson, however, finds himself intrigued by his eccentric young neighbor, especially once Bella stands up to him and calls him out on his cantankerous ways. He’s a master gardener himself with grief in his recent past…and as the two of them slowly reach a friendly understanding, he helps Bella bring order and beauty to her wilderness.

This transition from khaos (the Greek word for “void”) to kosmos (the Greek for “order”) isn’t confined to the garden, either. The more Bella ventures outside of her home and herself, the more she blooms, as well. Her fears lessen while her ability to be a true friend to Stephenson and his cook Vernon (played with endearing charm by Andrew Scott, of all people!) grows. Her confidence in pursuing a gentle romance with Billy (Jeremy Levine) rises. Even her frustrations over her writing fade away, her imagination finally free to take flight.

And as Luna drank in the view, she was filled with something quite magical. In the distance she could see the southern shore of the Caspian Sea, which isn’t a sea at all but actually the biggest lake in the world. Luna thanked the traveler.

“Oh, it’s nothing. You haven’t done the hard part yet.”

“Really?” said Luna.

“Now, you must believe,” said the traveler. And he pushed Luna off the mountain.

Luna screamed to the traveler, “Why did you do that? I can’t fly.”

“Says who?” he replied. And the wind lifted Luna off the mountain and she soared.

–Bella, telling her story

This Beautiful Fantastic* is all about the power of beauty, friendship, and good, old-fashioned dirt. I know from my own experience that plunging your hands into fresh, damp earth and planting something that’ll either fill the stomach or dazzle the eyes is incredibly empowering! It makes you think, “Oh wow…I really can do this!” It gives you something to look forward to–and it gets you out of your own head. You’re breaking a healthy sweat, the sun and the wind are on your face, the earth is beneath your feet, and you have tiny green things that’ll depend on you and your care until they’re big enough to give back. It’s hard to over-dwell on your own problems when you’ve got a task like that on your hands.

That’s not to say that the film implies you can simply think or work away your problems. (I’m not saying that, either, by the way. That’s called “toxic positivity” and it is bad.) Reckoning with your fears and troubles in a healthy way is an absolutely crucial part of life!

But as I myself have learned over the past year, you’ll never fully recover if you don’t choose to strengthen your weakest muscles–whether those muscles are physical, mental, or spiritual. You can’t wallow in your sorrows forever. Like Bella, you must eventually learn to look up and around at the beauty of the world around you.

And sometimes you have to jump off the mountain and learn you can fly.


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6 thoughts on “Movie Review: “This Beautiful Fantastic”

  1. I ran across this movie… sometime late last year? And found it delightful. It was so cute to see her slowly gather friends around her and learn to be more sociable, and heal herself through her gardening. Though the ending makes me tear up a little.

    Like

  2. I watched this movie a few years ago, for Andrew Scott (I was also watching Sherlock at the time). It’s beautiful! And I always love seeing Tom Wilkinson pop up in random films. ❀

    Like

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