This Beautiful Fantastic Film Review
Sometimes you discover films without any preconceived notions. Other times you discover them thanks to a familiar face in the cast list. For me, the latter is how I happened upon This Beautiful Fantastic. An underrated film that’s as charming as its title would suggest.
Bella Brown’s life has been anything but easy. Orphaned as a child, she grew up to be something of an oddity without friends or family to love her in spite of this. As a young woman, Bella (Jessica Brown Findlay) is much the same person. She thrives on order and timely events (like waiting to eat her dinner until a specific time or obsessively check her door locks) and aspires to be an author. In contrast to the otherwise precise life she leads inside her small home, Bella’s dreamy imagination is often the cause of her tardiness to her job at the library which threatens her position.
Unexpectedly, a trio of men enters Bella’s life. The first is her opinionated neighbor, Mr. Stephenson (Tom Wilkinson). Following him is his employee, Vernon (Andrew Scott), a struggling single father who becomes loyal to Bella. Then there is Billy (Jeremy Irvine), an eccentric inventor. All three men come to mean something different to Bella, and all three will teach her something she never expected.
There are some films that creep up on you in unexpected ways and places. This is one such film. Though I expected to enjoy it for its whimsical nature, what I didn’t anticipate was the way it so fully embedded itself into my heart. So much so it makes me sad this gem isn’t receiving greater notoriety.
Primary among the reasons I wanted to see this was Jessica Brown Findlay, who period drama fans will recognize as Lady Sybil from Downton Abbey. As usual, Jessica’s screen presence is stunning. She has a quiet grace I admire, and her portrayal of Bella results in a beautiful characterization. Apart from Jessica, the rest of this cast is flipping amazing! Of course. Wilkinson proves he’s a veteran talent for a reason. Happy (surprise) additions to the cast are Anna Chancellor (A&E’s Pride and Prejudice) and Andrew Scott. In particular, it’s hilarious to see Scott play this type of role (that of caregiver) after his creepy turn in BBC’s Sherlock.
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Tossing around words like “whimsy,” and “creative” fit this film like a glove. At the surface, it’s a typical British comedy complete with invitations to tea that blossoms in a gentle way, with its quirky brand of humor. And I love this. The script works well in its slower, almost relaxing pace. As I watched this, I found myself drawn into the story and the lives of these characters. Whether it’s Bella’s life at the library or the ways she’s slowly drawn out of her shell (through Billy, the garden or Vernon’s unexpected care of her), I adore the progression.
By means of comparison, for those who like films such as Not Another Happy Ending, Carrie Pilby, or Table 19, this too is something you may enjoy. Bittersweet though this story is, it’s also perfect. I appreciated its originality and vision. One is the lessons it teaches Bella often through the wisdom of her neighbor. She learns how to be a part of the world (one that’s wide, far and amazing) without losing herself. She’s unique and that’s what makes up the pieces of who she is. To end, I’ll say this; let its sweet nature (with a bent towards magical realism) sweep you up in its story. It’s a journey that’s as fantastic as its title suggests.
Content Note: Apart from one or two commonplace profanities, this film contains nothing offensive. It’s rated PG.
Photos: Samuel Goldwyn Films
“The stuff that dreams are made of.”
“Happiness in marriage is entirely a
matter of chance.”
*Lowered simply because romance, sadly, plays a limited rolePin this article to read later! And make sure to follow us on Pinterest.