Master Gardener

Reviewed by Claire Houghton

The Sunday 29th October Keswick Film Club presentation was Master Gardener, by Scorsese collaborator and screenwriter Paul Schrader (Taxi Driver, Raging Bull). Schrader's had an Academy Award nomination himself for 'Best Screenplay', after more than 40 years working in the business, when he got nominated for "First Reformed" in 2017, the first in the trilogy of films which culminates in Master Gardener.  The titular Master Gardener is a meticulous horticulturist who is devoted to tending the grounds of the beautiful Gracewood estate and pandering to his employer, the wealthy dowager, Mrs Haverhill played by three times Oscar nominee Sigourney Weaver. Joel Edgerton plays Norval Roth the gardener, but we soon see that he tends to Mrs Haverhill's carnal needs as well as to the plants and he has a hidden past.

** Spoiler Warning **

It's revealed that he was a neo-fascist gang enforcer, and was set up with Mrs Haverhill as part of his witness protection program.

One surprisingly enjoyable aspect of this film is when Norval shares with us his great knowledge of gardening, as with a meticulous hand and unwavering devotion, he's created an idyllic sanctuary for his demanding employer. But when her troubled great-niece Maya (a superb performance from Quintess Swindell) arrives seeking apprenticeship, Narvel's perfectly cultivated life begins to unravel, unearthing secrets from a violent past that threaten to destroy everything he holds dear. The rewarding outcome is that he does find redemption and the film has a happy ending. If you had watched the other two films in this trilogy you'd have known what to expect!