Secret Garden, The (1993)

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Short takes

Not suitable under 6; parental guidance to 7 (heavy themes of death, grief and illness)

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This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for Secret Garden, The (1993)
  • a review of Secret Garden, The (1993) completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 21 September 2020.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 6 Not suitable due to heavy themes (death of parents, grief, illness).
Children aged 6–7 Parental guidance recommended due to heavy themes (death of parents, grief, illness).
Children aged 8 and over Ok for this age group.

About the movie

This section contains details about the movie, including its classification by the Australian Government Classification Board and the associated consumer advice lines. Other classification advice (OC) is provided where the Australian film classification is not available.

Name of movie: Secret Garden, The (1993)
Classification: G
Consumer advice lines: The content is very mild in impact
Length: 101 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

1901, India: The Lennox's are a wealthy British couple living in India, where they mostly enjoy the colony's high society glamour and party life. Their 10 year-old daughter, Mary (Kate Maberly), is rich when it comes to wealth and attention of servants but deprived of parental love and attention, or friendships with other children, which has turned her into a spoilt and angry girl who is unable to cry. When her parents die in an earthquake, Mary is sent back to Yorkshire, England, to live with her uncle, Lord Archibald Craven (John Lynch). Craven is a lonesome and grief-stricken man ever since, ten years ago, his beloved wife – twin sister of Mary's mother – died. He spends most of the time away, and leaves head housekeeper Mrs. Medlock (Maggie Smith) in charge. While exploring the Manor, Mary discovers her late aunt's room, and in it a key that unlocks the door to a secret garden. A gardener tells Mary that this was her aunt's garden, and after she died Lord Craven locked it up and forbade anyone to ever enter it again. And this is not the only secret Mary discovers: following mysterious crying and whining, she finds that she has a same-aged cousin, Colin (Heydon Prowse), who has been spoilt and wrapped in cotton wool all his life, to the extent that he has never left his room, is too weak to walk, and believes that he is very ill and going to die soon. Both spoilt, lonely, and confused in their own ways, the two cousins become friends, and it does not take Mary long to challenge Colin to discover his mother's secret garden, and along with it an entire new world of possibilities.


Children and adolescents may react adversely at different ages to themes of crime, suicide, drug and alcohol dependence, death, serious illness, family breakdown, death or separation from a parent, animal distress or cruelty to animals, children as victims, natural disasters and racism. Occasionally reviews may also signal themes that some parents may simply wish to know about.

Fantasy Drama; Coming of age; Friendship; Personal growth.

Use of violenceinfo

Research shows that children are at risk of learning that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution when violence is glamourised, performed by an attractive hero, successful, has few real life consequences, is set in a comic context and / or is mostly perpetrated by male characters with female victims, or by one race against another.

Repeated exposure to violent content can reinforce the message that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution. Repeated exposure also increases the risks that children will become desensitised to the use of violence in real life or develop an exaggerated view about the prevalence and likelihood of violence in their own world.

There is some violence in this movie including:

  • Mrs Medlock pushes Mary into a room and locks her in.
  • Mrs Medlock slaps a maid in the face.

Material that may scare or disturb children

Under fiveinfo

Children under five are most likely to be frightened by scary visual images, such as monsters, physical transformations.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children under the age of five, including the following:

  • In one scene, Colin gets extremely angry, frustrated and distressed. He throws a hysterical tantrum during which is kicking, punching, and screaming, and adults hold him down to restrain him.

Aged five to eightinfo

Children aged five to eight will also be frightened by scary visual images and will also be disturbed by depictions of the death of a parent, a child abandoned or separated from parents, children or animals being hurt or threatened and / or natural disasters.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes and scary visual images, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children aged five to eight, including the following:

  • Sensitive children in this age group might get upset over the death of Mary's parents and Colin's mother, and seeing Colin's father broken by his grief to the extent that he is too afraid to see and spend time with his own son because it is too painful to be reminded of his dead wife.

Aged eight to thirteeninfo

Children aged eight to thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic threats and dangers, violence or threat of violence and / or stories in which children are hurt or threatened.

  • Nothing further of concern.

Product placement

  • None noted.

Sexual references

  • None noted.

Nudity and sexual activity

There is some nudity and sexual activity in this movie, including:

  • In one scene, 10 year-old Mary is getting dressed by servants and is briefly seen bare-chested.

Use of substances

  • None noted.

Coarse language

  • None noted.

In a nutshell

The Secret Garden is a 1993 adaptation of the popular 1911 children's novel of the same title, written by Frances Hodgson Burnett. It is a story about self-discovery and personal growth, as well as about the importance of family and friendship. Positive role-models and messages make it a film worth watching for a family audience. Compared to modern standards, the sedate pace, lack of loud and fast action, and the presence of rather heavy themes may pose a challenge to young, modern viewers that is worth tackling. Lack of interest and heavy themes make it unsuitable for children under 6 and warrant parental guidance for children aged 6 and 7.

The main message from this movie is that "if you look the right way, the whole world is a garden".

Values in this movie that parents may wish to reinforce with their children include:

  • Friendship
  • Determination
  • Courage
  • Growing and learning
  • Not getting stuck in the past but to look forward
  • Facing fears
  • Making the world your oyster.

This movie could also give parents the opportunity to discuss with their children the power of the mind: for a long time, Colin believes that he is weak and terminally ill, which leaves him completely dependent, bed-bound, and miserable. His life turns around and he starts healing physically and emotionally once he finds the courage and determination to challenge himself.