The Secret Garden (1993 film)

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For other uses, see Secret Garden (disambiguation).
The Secret Garden
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Agnieszka Holland
Produced by Fred Fuchs
Tom Luddy
Fred Roos
Screenplay by Caroline Thompson
Based on The Secret Garden 
by Frances Hodgson Burnett
Starring Kate Maberly
Heydon Prowse
Andrew Knott
Maggie Smith
John Lynch
Music by Zbigniew Preisner
Cinematography Roger Deakins
Jerzy Zielinski
Edited by Isabelle Lorente
Distributed by Warner Bros. Family Entertainment
Release dates
  • 13 August 1993 (1993-08-13) (US)
  • 20 January 1994 (1994-01-20) (UK)
Running time
102 minutes
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Box office $31,181,347

The Secret Garden is a 1993 British drama/fantasy film based on the novel of the same name by Frances Hodgson Burnett. The film was directed by Agnieszka Holland.


Mary Lennox (Kate Maberly) is the neglected, unloved child of a wealthy English couple living in India during the late 19th century. Her mother and father never wanted her and only care about themselves. Mary grows into a cold, aloof, hostile and unfriendly child as a result. She doesn't know how to look after herself, as her needs are always met by her ayah; nor has she learned to cry, as a result of her parents' neglect. One night during a large party, an earthquake occurs and both of Mary's parents are killed in the destruction.

Now an orphan, Mary is sent by ship to Liverpool, England, to live with her distant uncle, Lord Archibald Craven (John Lynch) in his Yorkshire estate, Misselthwaite Manor. Mary is picked up by Mrs. Medlock (Maggie Smith), the strict housekeeper of Misselthwaite. Mrs. Medlock remarks that Mary is a "queer, unresponsive little thing," that her mother was beautiful, and that Mary is not. The man overseeing the earthquake orphans agrees with her but says that children change. Mrs. Medlock comments that there is nothing at gloomy Misselthwaite to elicit such a change.

In the carriage ride to Misselthwaite, Mrs. Medlock explains to Mary that her aunt (her mother's twin sister) died 10 years ago, before Mary was born. Upon her arrival at the manor, Mary hears someone crying from a distant room; all of the servants tell her differently, claiming that it is the wind. On her first night at the manor, she discovers a secret door in her room that leads her to the abandoned rooms of the manor, one being the room of her late aunt. On her aunt's dressing table she finds an old key inside a music box, but thinks nothing of it.

Mary later meets Martha Sowerby (Laura Crossley), the manor's youngest servant. Initially hostile toward Martha, Mary is gradually won over by Martha's cheerfulness and sensitive, caring personality and they become friends. Martha tells Mary that, despite Mrs. Medlock informing her otherwise, Lord Craven would like to see her at some point. Lord Craven frequently travels away from Misselthwaite because his wife died in childbirth and her death left him broken and inconsolable.

With no friends to play with and most of the Manor off-limits, Mary ventures into the dormant gardens surrounding the estate. She discovers a hidden garden behind a high wall overgrown with ivy. One of the gardeners, Ben Weatherstaff (Walter Sparrow), tells her that there is no entrance because it was shut off by Lord Craven after the death of his wife. Driven to find out more about the garden, Mary remembers the key in her late aunt's bedroom, and discovers it fits the lock to the secret garden. She explores the garden, noticing that most of its plants appear dead, but finds some emerging spring bulbs amid the debris. She clears away the debris to let the bulbs grow, and experiences her first sense of true happiness. Soon thereafter, Mary meets Dickon Sowerby (Andrew Knott), Martha's brother, who knows everything about plants, animals, and nature. Excited that he has knowledge of gardens, Mary reveals the secret of the hidden garden to Dickon and enlists his help to make it come alive again. Dickon agrees and the two slowly help to restore the garden and its flowers.

One night, after dreaming about her mother, Mary hears the same crying from the distant room as before. Tracing the noise to its source, she discovers a small boy her own age in an enormous bedroom. The boy introduces himself as Colin Craven (Heydon Prowse), Lord Craven's son. Colin, who lives in bed, is unable to walk and has a morbid obsession with death, believing he will become a hunchback like his father.

Colin and Mary get to know each other. His windows are boarded up because of his belief that sunlight and "spores" from outside can harm him. When Mary decides to pull them down with Dickon's help, Colin falls out of his wheelchair, launching into a terrible tantrum. Mary calms him down by proving that there is nothing wrong with his back and that fresh air is harmless. Encouraged by these facts, Colin asks to be taken to the secret garden and Mary agrees. With Dickon's assistance, Colin is taken into the secret garden, now fully restored and resplendent in full bloom.

One afternoon, the children notice Ben Weatherstaff watching them inside the secret garden. Ben asks if Colin really has a crooked back and crooked legs; Colin denies both accounts, and gets Mary and Dickon to help him stand up for the first time in his life. Pleasantly surprised, Ben reveals that the late Lady Craven loved her flowers so much that she asked Ben to always continue taking care of it in her absence; when Lord Craven decreed that the garden was off-limits permanently, Ben continued taking care of it anyway since Lady Craven "gave her orders first." The children agree to allow Ben into the garden as long as he will keep their secret; Ben agrees.

Colin learns to walk and his strength and health rapidly improve. Feeling her authority over Misselthwaite in jeopardy, Mrs. Medlock reasserts that Colin is gravely ill, forbids him from going outside any longer, and locks Mary inside her bedroom to keep the children separated.

Mary escapes from her room through the secret door discovered earlier. She meets with Colin and they agree to use "magic" to summon his father back to Misselthwaite. With Dickon and Ben's assistance, the four go into the secret garden at night and perform magic at night, barefoot. The magic causes Lord Craven, abroad in Italy, to have a dream about his late wife in the secret garden with Colin.

Alarmed and terrified, Lord Craven rushes back to Misselthwaite and demands Mrs. Medlock to take him to Colin at once. They find Colin's room deserted. Blaming Mary for Colin's absence, they go to her locked room and also find Mary missing. Martha speaks up and timidly suggests that the children might be in Lady Craven's old garden. Lord Craven angrily rebuffs Mrs. Medlock for letting a child trump her authority; Mrs. Medlock breaks down into tears and resigns from her position.

Lord Craven goes into the secret garden to find Colin walking and playing games, blindfolded. He removes Colin's blindfold, and father and son experience a joyful reconnection. Mary witnesses this from afar and runs off onto the moor, crying. Lord Craven catches up to her and asks the reason for her sadness; Mary says that she fears he will lock the garden up again. Lord Craven states that Mary brought his family back to life and that he will never lock up the garden again. Drying her tears, they rejoin Colin and Dickon and all four happily march back to the Manor, to the surprise and delight of the onlooking servants.

In voice-over, Mary explains that the spell has finally been broken: her uncle has learned to laugh, she has learned to cry, and the secret garden is always unlocked. The film ends with Dickon riding over the Yorkshire countryside on his horse, as the world zooms out around him.



Yorkshire's imposing Allerton Castle stood in for most of the exterior shots of Misselthwaite Manor, and some of the interior was also used. Fountains Hall was also used for part of the Manor's exterior.[citation needed]

Interiors of the former Midland Grand Hotel were used for filming as well, notable the scenes on the grand staircase.

Holland was already internationally famous as a director before the making of the film; in making this film she continued to work outside of Poland.[2]


The film features the end credits song "Winter Light" performed by Linda Ronstadt, which is based on two themes from the score by Zbigniew Preisner. However, the song is not featured in the film's original soundtrack, but in Ronstadt's eponymous album Winter Light.[3] Opera star Sarah Brightman and the youngest member of Celtic Woman, Chloë Agnew covered this song for their albums; Brightman's Classics and Agnew's Walking In The Air.

The soundtrack, released by Varèse Sarabande, contains the original score.[4]


Since its 1993 release, the film has garnered exceptionally positive reviews and currently holds an 85% "fresh" approval rating on the Rotten Tomatoes website, based on 40 reviews.[5]

According to Box Office Mojo, the film has a domestic gross of $31,181,347.[6]

Awards and nominations[edit]

Award wins

Award nominations


External links[edit]