Screen Reviews
Master Gardener

Master Gardener

KOJO Studios

directed by Paul Schrader

starring Joel Edgerton, Sigourney Weaver, Quintessa Swindell

If this isn’t the damnedest love story I’ve ever seen.

Narvel Roth (Joel Edgerton) is a gardener with a past. Today he leads the team at Gracewood Gardens, a noted garden owned by the wealthy widow Norma Haverhill (Sigourney Weaver). This is a garden people come from other states to visit, so it’s not some fly-by-night job.

The operation has just picked up a new employee, Maya (Quintessa Swindell). She has a past, just like everyone here, but she’s penitent, takes to the routine, and becomes one of the staff technically and socially. Norma is clearly the boss — she passes orders to Narvel, who then executes them, up to and including sleeping with her.

At first Maya works well, but then things get weird, and we are off on a frightening adventure in a bad part of town. Will anyone find love here? Can they get those pesky gang tats off? And can they still have drugs in rehab?

This is a slow, introspective piece of filmmaking, punctuated by ultra violence from time-to-time. It takes a long stretch dwelling on horticulture, but after the planting tips, things lighten off. There’s a midnight flight, a drug house party, trees mercilessly cut down, and flowers stomped upon by jilted drug dealers.

Weaver has aged beautifully, and as the doyenne of this garden she has her way, and not just about the jonquils. Edgerton works with a reserved confidence, knowing what to do and how to get the effects desired, especial with a gun in his hand. Swindell mirrors his stoicism. She’s been rid hard and put away wet, and yet she still adapts.

There isn’t just sex in this film. You also get a good dose of violence and more than a few gardening tips. It’s a mix of the gentle and ultra violent, and an interesting peek into the drug dens of the old south.

This film is part of the 2023 Florida Film Festival, presented by Enzian Theater, Maitland, Florida, April 14-23, 2023.

Florida Film Festival


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