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Dare to Be Wild

Power to the flower: biopic of Irish landscape designer Mary Reynolds provides a plush and superb portrait of nature, but does not analyse the broader impact of her work in detail

A journey from naïve countryside Irish girl to acclaimed artist: Dare to be Wild is based on the true story of Mary Reynolds (played by Emma Greenwell) breakthrough into the world of landscape design. Brought up by environmentally conscious parents in remote backlands of Ireland, Mary dreams of the wild spirits of the earth and later channels them throughout her journey to the Chelsea Flower Show, where she promotes the idea of gardens as wild sanctuaries.

She finds a lifetime opportunity to help celebrity guru/garden designer Charlotte Heavey (Christine Marzano), but soon realizes her ideas are being seized by her jealous boss, and published without her permission. She pretends to be content and continues to be taken advantage of, and preditacbly ends up being dismissed. Despite the hurdles, Mary decides to compete for the Gold Medal on the Chelsea Flower Show. The film focuses on Mary’s quest to dissiminate her vision, as she persuades a team of unconventional experts, the Green Angels, along with her dalliance the botanist Christy Collard (Tom Hughes) – they seem to be the only ones who understand her pioneering vision.

She still has to convince Christy that the exposure at the event will help them to higlight the urgency of nature preservation in its ordinary state. Christy’s passion is in the reforestation of the forgotten landscape of Ethiopia, which sees Mary embarking on yet another trip. The pair eventually finds their middle ground and their newfound synergy takes them back to Chelsea to work together on Mary’s concept.

The film is sustained by a fairy-tale like tone, with a few (sadly mediocre) allusions to Celtic mysticism. As well intentioned as it is, little is uncovered on the liberating power of nature. Apart from the glorious shots of Ireland and Ethiopia – which are always the backdrop to sappy romance -, the film sometimes fails to analyse the real impact of the work of the protagonist. It’s visually striking, but possibly a little too glossy and dazzling a depiction to uncover the importance of the revival of nature.

Dare to be Wild is out in more than 100 cinemas in the UK and Ireland on Friday September 23rd, with a special screening at the Gate Cinema in London on September 21st.

You can watch the film trailer below:

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