TIFF 2020: “The Garden”

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Has it ever happened to you that, after watching a film, you find yourself speechless, confused and stunned? Almost like you are in search of words but all of them appear to be blurry and meaningless to use. I knew right away that the Icelandic “The Garden” is a must-see. But what I did not know was its ability to leave the audience in a state of shock, as it is about something that happened not to a fictional character but someone you know really well.

Indiana (Sigrun Edda Bjornsdottir) is one of the worst human beings you can ever meet. She is rude, ruthless, ugly from inside, and an absolutely dislikable character. Only Heavens know how her, most likely, only friend Johanna (Haldora Geirhardsdottir) is putting up with her. She has an only son with whose time, mind, and love she is messing with. She thinks all the migrants are “bloody vagrants” and do not deserve to be in her country. The same immigrants that work hard for their salary, while Indiana is robbing money from the social services and sitting on welfare. Things turn to worse when her son, Unnar, brings an immigrant girlfriend to his mom’s house, making her even more angry and full of hatred than before.

We feel that Either Indiana or Unnar is a slow ticking bomb. You expect one of them to explode any minute. Unnar, for instance, appears to be exceptionally calm. But that’s only if you don’t pay attention to the film. His mother would use him to get more benefits from the government. She also loves bragging about her award winning garden that she is asked to take care of due to the new regulation, and remove the flowers that are not part of the preserved plants. All this and Unnar’s new girlfriend brings more tension into her already disturbed mind by forcing her to turn into a beast with whom you would never even dare to share the same city.

From writer and director Ragnar Bragason, “The Garden” offers a stunning portrayal of human greed and hatred. When those two qualities come together, you get results on a scale that cannot even be measured. An absolutely powerful and awfully realistic performance delivered by Sigrún Edda Björnsdóttir will make you want Indiana to be slapped throughout. Her portrayal of a typical racist woman is absolutely top notch. She’s so good that by looking at her remarkable performance, you will wonder whether the actress at some point is playing herself.

That said, it is hard to find words to describe “The Garden”. It offers a multi-layered story of a human that is as broad as it could get. As you reach towards the end, one particular scene will leave you hanging right where you are forced to stop watching your language, because there is no other way to describe the ending, which is, trust me on this – unfortunately logical. You will wish that nobody had to get there but with what we see right from the start, a controlling mother, a creepy person, delivers only one result – the one I truly hope you can watch for yourself to find out.

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