A building site may not seem like the most conventional place to start a magical tale of time travel, but somehow Willard Carroll’s adaptation of the classic Tom’s Midnight Garden manages to pull it off. Starring Greta Scacchi and James Wilby as Aunt and Uncle to Tom Long (Anthony Way), who is to spend time away from home to avoid getting the measles, Tom’s Midnight Garden is a beautiful and enchanting film, both aesthetically and in story. The visual delights of the garden are offset by a continuous magical soundtrack, highlighting the simplicity of life in the garden and the surroundings themselves. It is a film easily enjoyed by all of the family and stays satisfying true to the original plot of Philippa Pearce’s novel.
Even from the very start of the film there is a huge focus on time and its manipulation. Tom himself says that it feels like he spends an eternity in the garden whilst in reality only a few moments have passed. As the audience is slowly drawn into Tom’s world, it really does feel like they are in Tom’s world and time. Whilst both Tom and the audience will have many questions throughout the film, even these mysteries themselves unravel at different times. It is a beauty of the film that it can be enjoyed on several different levels, even leaving some questions unanswered to prolong thought and engagement as well as giving it depth for a wider appeal.
One of the most refreshing aspects of the film is its tendency to jump straight into the plot. Whilst character building may appear somewhat scant, the audience is soon thrown into a world of wonder and mystery, allowing a greater focus on that of the events and the relationship between Tom and his new-found friend, Hattie, (Florence Hoath). As time jumps forwards and backwards haphazardly, not only does their relationship develop, they can be seen growing older, albeit at different rates. The confusing nature of dreaded relationships with girls also adds a touch of gentle humour. Overall Tom’s Midnight Garden makes for a delightful and engaging watch for all the family.