The Secret Garden (1993 film)

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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. One night during one of their frequent parties, Mary can be seen hiding in her mother's bedroom under the bed, as her mother unexpectedly returned. Her father follows her mother, whereupon Mary really sees how much they care about one another. Continuing in her narrative, she tells us that her parents always think of themselves, never about her, and that, if only she'd known that in a few minutes she'd lose them forever. Ultimately, an earthquake occurs and both of Mary's parents are killed in the destruction.

Six months after the incident, Mary is sent by ship to Liverpool, England, where she is picked up, several hours late, by Mrs. Medlock (Maggie Smith), the strict housekeeper of Misselthwaite Manor in Yorkshire. She speaks with the man who is in charge of incoming ship passengers, where they inconsiderately discuss Mary's appearance in front of her. Mrs. Medlock says that Mary is a "queer, unresponsive little thing" and that her mother was beautiful, and Mary is not. The man quickly agrees with her, and says that children change. Mrs. Medlock agrees as well, and ushers Mary along.

Mrs. Medlock explains, while in a carriage back to the manor, to Mary that her aunt died before she was born. Mary did not know this because her parents spent no time with her. She doesn't know how to look after herself, as her needs were always met by her ayah back in India; nor has she learned to cry. Upon her arrival at the manor, she hears someone crying from a distant room, but 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, who is also her mother's twin sister). Mary later meets Martha Sowerby (Laura Crossley), the manor's cheerful, youngest servant, with whom she quickly becomes friends. Martha tells Mary that her uncle, Lord Archibald Craven (John Lynch), would like to see her sometime, although Mrs. Medlock denies this fact, too. Lord Craven frequently travels away from home because his wife died during the birth of his son and Mary's cousin, Colin Craven (Heydon Prowse), as he is unable to overcome his loss; it is thought to be a curse that is laid upon Lord Craven.

The next day, when Mary is out in the fresh air and the local gardens, she discovers another hidden garden behind some overgrown ivy. One of the gardeners, Ben Weatherstaff (Walter Sparrow), tells her that there is no entrance because it was meant to be shut off by Lord Craven after the death of his wife. Mary, driven to find out more about the garden, remembers a key she found in her late aunt's bedroom, and discovers it fits the lock to the hidden door. One night after dreaming about her mother for the first time since coming to England, she hears the crying from the distant room she heard before. Determined to find out where the crying is coming from, she discovers the room that belongs to Colin, who is the master of the house during Lord Craven's absence. Colin, who lives in bed, is unable to walk and has a morbid obsession with death, and believes he will become a hunchback like his father.

Colin and Mary get to know each other very well. His windows are boarded up because of his belief that the light and "spores" outside can harm him. When Mary decides to pull them down with the help of Martha's brother, Dickon Sowerby (Andrew Knott) (whom she met earlier when she discovered the door to the secret garden), Colin falls out of his wheelchair onto the floor, launching a terrible tantrum. It is revealed that Medlock keeps Colin concealed from Mary as she is convinced Mary is capable of killing Colin if she goes anywhere near him. Soon, Mary persuades Colin that the fresh air is safe, Colin uses his authority over Mrs. Medlock and Mary and Dickon take him outside in his wheelchair to see the secret garden that they have been trying to restore. Mary and Dickon ultimately teach Colin to stand up and walk, but they decide that Lord Craven should be the first to see Colin walking, so they conceal the secret from Medlock and the others.

Mary, Dickon, and Colin one afternoon notice Ben Weatherstaff staring at them, and he admits to tending to the garden for the late Lady Craven, and having a special love for the roses. Ben is angry when he sees Mary, and Mary claims that their robin friend showed her the door. Ben also sees that Colin is in a wheelchair, and asks if he has a crooked back and crooked legs. Angrily, Colin denies both accounts, and gets Mary and Dickon to help him stand, shocking Ben completely. Dickon goes to let him in, and Colin asks Mary if the garden is really magical. Mary claims that Colin is the magical one, and Colin proposes marriage to Mary, whereupon Mary quickly says that they're cousins. Colin, meanwhile, claims that he doesn't care, and that he wants them to be together forever. Mary smiles and kisses him, telling him that they are together. Dickon returns with Ben, and the children agree to allow him into the garden, as long as he will keep their secret.

Later, Colin begins walking better and better, and Mary and Dickon are able to play more games with him. One day, Dickon is pushing Mary on the garden's swing (a swing that Dickon told Mary that Lady Craven fell off of and ultimately gave birth to Colin too soon) and Colin is snapping pictures of them with an old camera. Mary playfully throws her hat to Colin, and he puts it on, and tells Dickon to sit beside Mary on the swing. He laughingly notices them looking at each other, then tells them to look at him. Mary and Dickon do not, hinting at an attraction between the two, but Colin becomes jealous, and demands that they look at him.

After Mrs. Medlock states that Colin is gravely ill, she forces Mary and Colin to be separated, locking Mary in her bedroom. Mary however escapes from her room through the second door behind a tapestry. Then she takes Colin and Dickon to the garden to perform magic at night, barefoot. The magic causes Lord Craven to have a dream about his late wife in the secret garden with Colin. Alarmed and terrified, he rushes back to Misselthwaite Manor to find him. Not finding Colin in his room, he immediately demands of Mrs. Medlock where is my son?. Mrs. Medlock shifts the blame onto Mary and when they check her room, Lord Craven discovers Mrs. Medlock has locked the door and tells her that Mary is just a child and that he left her in charge. Martha speaks up and says to Lord Craven they might be in the garden.

Lord Craven goes into the secret garden to find Colin walking quite well now. With Mary (certain that no one wants her anymore) running away, Lord Craven persuades her that she is truly a wanted person. Soon, Mary has learned to cry for the first time, and Lord Craven has regained his sense of humor and laughter. Upon their return to the Manor, Medlock and the other servants are amazed to see Colin walking back independently with Mary and Lord Craven.

Mary narrates of her uncle's learning to laugh, and her learning to cry...and that the whole world is a garden. 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]