Pathé has the incredible knack of creating hard hitting films that ooze authenticity and passion for their projects and with Grow Your Own the infamous production company once again delivers. This 2007 story, screened by Broadway Cinema this week as part of their ongoing Mental Health Season, is based on a project by ‘Gateway to Nature’, covering the topics of racism, prejudice and primarily mental health. Set in a Liverpool allotment, Richard Laxton’s heart-warming tale provides an engaging, emotional hour-and-a-half of entertainment.
Kung Sang (Benedict Wong) and his two children, Phoenix (Sophie Lee) and Dragon (Jeffrey Li) are refugees from China who are struggling with Kung’s mental instability following the events of their immigration to the UK. Desperate for a cure for Kung’s depression, the family are set on a gardening scheme designed to improve the psychological state of patients suffering with mental illness. Much to the dismay of many of the allotment’s current patrons, in particular the exceptionally racist and malicious Allotment Committee’s head, Big John (Philip Jackson). As the cold of Kung’s depression begins to thaw, so do the icy reservations from the other allotment residents, proving that with hard work in all aspects comes change.
Benedict Wong’s performance is outstanding. His portrayal of a mentally ill father is both beautiful and authentic and will definitely hit home with anyone familiar with life as a depressed individual. His recollection of the family’s emigration from China is truly moving and expertly depicts the way that the suffering of many asylum seekers and immigrants, both legal and illegal, can directly affect their mental and physical well-being.
There are many recognisable faces such as Eddie Marsan (Snow White & The Huntsman, Sherlock Holmes) and Olivia Colman (Hot Fuzz, Peep Show) as well as stand-up comedian Omid Djalili who each put in individually superb performances and add a sense of familiarity for the audience which adds to the audience’s engagement with each character.
Grow Your Own doesn’t spend a lot of time on the Sang family’s story despite their position as main characters, however the direction is first-rate and doesn’t detract from it in any way. Each character’s thread forms an equally important piece of the puzzle, their opinions and mental states both fully formed and three-dimensional. The dynamics of each resident’s relationship with each other make the final scenes of Grow Your Own even more poignant; highlighting the heartwarming, feel-good vibe.
Grow Your Own is a must-see for anyone interested in the advancement of mental health awareness and those curious about alternative methods of mental care. Each actor puts in an admirable performance and Laxton’s direction moves the story on smoothly and uncomplicatedly. Perfect for anyone wishing to see a calm, soft movie, expecting both laughter and tears. Overall a beautiful account of a dark experience that will leave audiences feeling truly moved.