Australian Council on Children and the Media

The Secret Garden (2020)

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Short takes

Not suitable under 8; parental guidance to 10 (scary scenes and themes)

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This topic contains:

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

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 8 Not suitable due to scary scenes and themes.
Children aged 8–10 Parental guidance recommended due to scary scenes and themes.
Children over the age of 10 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.

Name of movie: The Secret Garden (2020)
Classification: PG
Consumer advice lines: Mild themes
Length 100 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

Set in 1947, The Secret Garden is based on the novel by Frances Hodgson Burnett. On the eve of partition between India and Pakistan, Mary Lennox's (Dixie Egerickx) parents are tragically killed. Mary wakes to find her house in disarray and with no-one else around. As an orphan, she is taken to England to live with her Uncle Archibald Craven (Colin Firth) by the formidable Mrs. Medlock (Julie Waters). Mary arrives to find a house in mourning. She is told she must stay in her room and not wander around the large mansion. At night she hears cries from somewhere in the house and goes to investigate. There she discovers her cousin, Colin (Edan Hayhurst), who is disabled and bedridden.

Colin is at first reluctant to make friends with Mary, having lived in isolation for a very long time, but he gradually lets his defences down. The two become firm friends and Mary persuades him to venture outside of the house. In her solitary time, Mary had discovered the secret garden to which she was led by a garden robin. Mary had also made friends with a dog, she named Jemima and a boy called Dickon (Amir Wilson). Mary introduces Colin to her friends and shares the delightful and magical garden with him. Colin's spirits are lifted by his new experiences and gradually he regains the use of his legs. When Uncle Archibald discovers what has happened, he is at first enraged, but soon comes to realise that Mary's influence on Colin has been to his benefit.

Themesinfo

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.

Orphans; Death of a parent(s); Magic; Fantasy; Supernatural.

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:

  • Uncle Archibald yells at Mrs Medlock to get rid of a lot of stuff.
  • Jemima, the dog, gets its paw caught in a rabbit trap and is badly injured.
  • Mrs Medlock grabs Mary by the arm for taking a necklace from Colin's mother's room. Uncle Archibald is very angry and yells at Mary. He marches her to her room and locks her in.

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:

  • Mary tells stories to her dolls by firelight. Shadowy puppets are projected onto the wall that make strange noises.
  • The Craven's house is large, dark and gloomy. It sits on a hill in the middle of the moors. The moors are covered in fog and dismal.

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:

  • Mary wakes up to find her house has been trashed. No-one is around and she is left alone. After some time Mary looks dirty and scared and is scavenging for food and drink.
  • A man suddenly bursts into Mary's room and takes her to the authorities. She overhears that her parents have both died.
  • A man is seen walking down the street on crutches with an amputated leg.
  • Mary queues in a long line of refugees to get some food.
  • Mary throws her doll into the river and decides she is no longer a child. The doll is seen floating along the water.
  • Mrs Medlock and Mr Craven are both intimidating, cold characters.
  • Mary is scared at night in her bed, particularly when she hears crying from somewhere in the house. She covers herself with her blankets and dreams a colourful dream of her Mother.
  • Mary ventures outside into the moors, where everything looks bleak, muddy and covered in fog. Mary's afraid when she first sees the dog and tells it to go away. A wind starts blowing in the shrubs around her.
  • Mary imagines the wallpaper in her bedroom comes to life and the birds start flying.
  • During the night Mary goes exploring in the large house which is scary and dark. She eventually finds her cousin Colin who, at first, doesn't want anything to do with her.
  • A flashback shows Mary banging on the door to her Mother's room. Her Mother is lying on a bed and Mary thinks she's dying.
  • Mary climbs over a garden wall and falls to the bottom on the other side but she isn't injured.
  • Colin falls down a few times while attempting to walk.

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.

In addition to the above mentioned violent scenes, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children aged eight to thirteen, including the following:

  • Colin tells Mary that the house is cursed – it killed his Mother and nearly killed him.
  • Jemima cries and whimpers when he gets his paw caught in the trap. Mary manages to free him but he is badly injured and limps for some time.
  • Mary finds Colin crying in bed and he says he's dying. He hates his Mother for leaving him on his own.
  • Mary often sees visions of her Mother and her Aunt, dancing, chatting and present around her.
  • Dickon helps Jemima by bathing and dressing the injured paw. He says he might die and the dog is shown prostrate in the grass appearing to be dead. (he isn't).
  • Mary tells Colin that her Mother died in a hospital alone and in pain.
  • Uncle Archibald accidentally sets the house on fire during his anger. The fire quickly spreads and he is caught inside. Mary rushes in through the flames and smoke to rescue him. This is quite a dramatic scene.

Over thirteeninfo

Children over the age of thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic physical harm or threats, molestation or sexual assault and / or threats from aliens or the occult.

Nothing further of concern.

Product placement

  • None noted.

Sexual references

  • None noted.

Nudity and sexual activity

  • None noted.

Use of substances

There is some use of substances in this movie, including:

  • Uncle Archibald drinks whiskey.

Coarse language

  • None noted.

In a nutshell

The Secret Garden (2020) is a remake of the classic film and book by Frances Hodgson Burnett. The movie is quite grim a lot of the time, however this contrasts well with the colourful beauty of the secret garden. In this interpretation of the story, the garden is more magical than secret and there are many appearances of Mary's Mother and Aunt who appear in supernatural form to help and guide Mary and also the Uncle on occasion. It is very well acted by all characters but the themes and content of the movie make it unsuitable for children under 8. Parental guidance is also recommended for children aged 8 – 10.

The main messages from this movie are to not be consumed by tragedy but to overcome loss and grief, and learn to live in the present.

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

  • Determination
  • Curiosity
  • Hope
  • the importance of friendship
  • A positive outlook.

This movie could also give parents the opportunity to discuss with their children attitudes and behaviours, and their real-life consequences, such as:

  • the difficulty of losing a parent and the importance of retaining a positive memory of a loved one while continuing to move on with life after loss. This is an important topic to discuss with children and this movie might give the opportunity to discuss death and beliefs about what happens when you die.

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