"A garden," Nelson Mandela has said, "was one of the few things in prison that one could control. To plant a seed, watch it grow, to tend it, and then harvest it, offered a simple but enduring satisfaction. The sense of being the custodian of this small patch of earth offered a small taste of freedom." Based on Paula Deitz's 1998 New York Times article, "Free to Grow Bluebells in England," this frolicsome English comedy written and directed by Joel Hershman is a real treat to experience.
Colin Briggs (Clive Owen) is in prison serving a sentence for murder; he'll be up for parole soon and is resigned to just doing the time. Then he is transferred to Edgefield, an experimental "open" prison designed to give inmates job skills and self-esteem. There he is befriended by Fergus Wilks (David Kelly), an eccentric elderly man who loves flowers. The two are given the assignment of cultivating the prison's first garden along with Tony (Danny Dyer), a thief; Raw (Adam Fogerty), a skinhead; and Jimmy (Paterson Joseph), whose son has disowned him.
When Georgina Woodhouse (Helen Mirren), a gardening expert and best-selling author, sees the garden they have produced, she decides to sponsor Colin, Fergus, and their co-workers at the prestigious Hampton Court Flower Show. Another surprise is that Colin falls in love with Georgina's daughter Primrose (Natasha Little).
This English comedy vividly demonstrates how gardening for Colin becomes a way of nurturing his soul. In caring for these plants, he learns what it means to look after himself and to reach out to another in love. Best of all, he finds that gardening gives him a small taste of freedom the kind that no one can ever take away.