Saving Grace

Directed by Nigel Cole
Starring: Brenda Blethyn, Craig Ferguson, Martin Clunes, Tchéky Karyo, Valerie Edmond, Tristan Sturrock.
MPAA Rating: R for drug content and language.

Review by Matt Heffernan <matt@filmhead.com>
August 22, 2000

Saving Grace comes to America less than three months after its initial release -- surprisingly quick, even for a British film. If you were to see it, though, it would not be a surprise at all. This film is just too funny to take its time.

Brenda Blethyn stars as Grace Trevethyn, a recently widowed housewife whose late husband left her nothing but debts. All she has ever done is gardening, but soon she may not have a pot to... plant in. Her gardener (who is really just a glorified lawn-mower), Matthew (Craig Ferguson) knows he's out of a job when his latest paycheck bounces.

Before his last week is over, Matthew tries to get some gardening advice from Grace. He has been trying to grow some marijuana plants in the vicarage, but he can't get enough light to them without drawing attention. She takes a plant back to her greenhouse, where she is struck with an idea: take leaf cuttings and grow a forest of weed hydroponically. With her first harvest alone, she could erase her debts, but keeping a secret like this in a small English town proves quite difficult.

Comedies such as these are quite common in the U.K. and Ireland, but American attempts never seem to work quite right (Mumford, Mystery, Alaska, etc.). Saving Grace is full of the wonderful characters that the American films seem to lack. Blethyn is superb, as always, in the role of a reserved, but strong-willed woman. Contrast this with her role in Little Voice, which was the exact opposite, but still played just as brilliantly.

She could carry the film alone, but Ferguson (The Big Tease) performs triple-duty as co-star, co-writer, and co-producer. The screenplay he wrote with Mark Crowdy (making his screenwriting debut) gives him another great character to play. Their combined charisma is almost overwhelming, and the addition of the other townsfolk and the genuinely funny situation had me in fits of laughter. After the artistic pretension of The Cell and the sheer magnitude of Ran, Saving Grace was just what I needed this weekend.

I won't give away the ending, but I must say that it plays into an old cliché of American comedy. It was supposed to be ironic, which it would have been -- about 30 years ago. Maybe some people thinks it's endearing, but they should know better after seeing (what was up until then) such a highly original work.


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Saving Grace (2000)

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Saving Grace (2000) -- DVD


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Review © 2000 Matt Heffernan