Tom’s Midnight Garden (1999)
Tom’s Midnight Garden is one of Second Sight Films’ latest made for TV movies to be released on DVD and it’s really great to see these older tales brought back to life again to watch when it suits you, not the TV schedule.
It is the story of Thomas Long, who when he goes wandering around a huge mansion at midnight discovers a portal to travel back in time to a garden in the eighteen hundreds.
The film starts with a grown up Tom, who goes to visit an old house that’s being knocked down. Then we flash back to when he was a fourteen year old and gets taken there by his aunt and uncle, whilst he is in quarantine to not catch measles from his brother. His aunt and uncle live there in one of the flats that it has been converted into. Tom is given a tour around the flats and they don’t have any garden, just a back courtyard where the bins are kept; or so it seems at first glance.
The first night Tom spends there, he naturally cannot sleep being in a new environment. The clock chimes 12am and he decides to go and have a walk about the house. He sneaks downstairs and peeks out of the back door. There is a grand garden, which was not there on his first visit. He turns around and sees the apparition of a maid and the whole house is transformed around him to how it looked in the eighteen hundreds. As soon as he closes the door, the whole place transforms back to the modern day again. He makes a note to himself to come back at the same time the next evening to do a bit of exploring and thinks his aunt and uncle have been lying to him about it. After breakfast the next morning, he goes to the back door again and all that is there are bins.
When he visits again at midnight, he meets the one person who can see him, a young orphan girl called Hatty. At first, they both believe that each other is a ghost, until they discover that they can transport things if Hatty leaves them in a cubby hole behind a mirror in her bedroom. When Tom checks this back in his room, he can see what has been left in there for him all those years ago.
The movie is quite sad in places, but counteracts that with some truly uplifting moments. It has a really nice Christmassy feel to it with all the snow in the garden and the heart-warming story, which would appeal to both adults and children.
It goes straight into the heart of the story, which is needed for a TV movie. You need to grab the audience’s attention before they pick up the remote and switch over. Because of this, you don’t get very much character development. You find out why Tom’s there and that he has a brother back home, whom he writes to, but that’s about it for his back story.
Some of the child characters leave a lot to be desired in the acting department, but this is easy to forgive, as it has a great British feel to it and a nice Secret Garden vibe. It has some brilliant locations, being set over three different time periods.
There are a few points in the movie where I became a little lost, due to not having read the book. I would love to read the book, by Philippa Pearce, now to see how closely it is followed. There is also a 1989 TV series adaptation, which I would like to track down and watch.
Tom’s Midnight Garden was released on DVD on 7th November 2011 and would make a fantastic family Christmas present.
DIRECTOR: WILLARD CARROLL
WRITER: WILLARD CARROLL (SCREENPLAY), PHILIPPA PEARCE
STARS: GRETA SCACCHI, JAMES WILBY, LIZ SMITH, DAVID BRADLEY
RUNTIME: 107 MINS APPROX