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By midlandsmovies, Sep 6 2018 10:00AM

Margie's Garden

Directed by Ash Morris

An official selection of the NO/GLOSS Film Festival, Margie’s Garden is a new dark comedy-drama from regional filmmaker Ash Morris.

We open with a pensioner – Abigail Hamilton as Margie – who watches a bomber-jacket clad man working on an allotment as she takes a sip of a warm drink from a flask. Appearances can be deceiving however as we soon discover that this kindly old lady – next seen as high as a kite in her front room – is a local drug dealer with her home filled to the ceiling with cannabis plants.

Her similarly aged friends also seem to be enjoying the “high” life where copious amount of munchies in the form of sugary cakes and chocolate eclairs being consumed.

The film uses a realistic slice-of-life handheld aesthetic which gives it an air (smoke-filled of course) of authenticity despite the large leaps in imagination.

The story continues as Steven Arnold – from Morris’ previous film BARE (see Midlands Movies review here) – plays the mysterious Adam. And he suspects the house is a drug den, and one he could exploit for his own nefarious ends.

Showing up uninvited, the dope appears at the front door and threatens to expose the operation to the authorities unless he gets his slice. Margie seems less than fazed by the pressure and reminds him of his manners as he greedily downs tea and biscuits.

The film cross-cuts the main narrative with dream-like shots of people getting high on bongs and reefer. This is reflected in the cinematography where backlit rooms are filled with smoke and an air of hippie-infused haze. And slow motion, Dutch angles and heavily reverbed voices all lend the film an eerie tone too.

A strange comparison admittedly, these sequences reminded me of the melancholic slo-mo drug taking scenes in sci-fi reboot Dredd (2012) but they are hilariously cut with shots of domestic chores. Margie indulges herself in washing up and (pot?) tea served up in her best china as a lullaby style soundtrack plays in the background.

Margie then sends her son Kieron (This Is England’s burly George Newton) to face Adam in order to “tenderise the meat” in a brutal scene of retribution. She’s one old lady not to mess with! But after he returns to apologise, her nice side returns by offering him a pain-relieving spliff. Perhaps gaining a new customer in the process? Well, actually no. As he passes out from the herb, his ultimate outcome is far, far worse than you could imagine.

Written by Nicola Monaghan, she channels the British eccentricity of Ben Wheatley and a hint of The League of Gentlemen. And whilst it has a story similarity to the French film Paulette (2012), Monaghan balances the difficult task of being humorous yet grim and serious just moments later.

But the true star is the funny and sweet, yet very menacing, Abigail Hamilton as Margie herself. Seeing an old lady using the vernacular of the streets is comical alongside her animated face when in a drug high. However, as the tale turns more dark so does she, and her intense stare may haunt audiences' dreams for nights to come. Clever, and well shot on a technical level, I’d highly recommend checking out this strange Scarface of suburbia.

Mike Sales

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