Possibly influenced by Rachel Getting Married and August: Osage County, writer/director Roz Owen makes her feature film debut with Trouble in the Garden, a condensed drama about a family’s black sheep returning “home” to unexpectedly face her conflicted past.
Pippa (Cara Gee) is bailed out of jail by her brother Colin (Jon Cor) after a night of protesting. She prefers to be acknowledged as “Raven”, and she’s dedicated to her fight against indigenous land being sacrilegiously built on. Colin, who oversees some of the real estate on the controversial land, seems to only be concerned about mending fences with his adopted sister. The reunion gets more tense, however, when the siblings’ parents (Fiona Reid, Frank Moore) visit from out of town to celebrate the birthday of Colin’s daughter Gracie (Persephone Koty).
Trouble in the Garden has the pace and anticipation of a boiling pot of water – it’s a slow burn towards a fierce finish. Gee steers the film with a sensational performance as Pippa/Raven, someone who has never been able to attach herself to anything – her family, her culture, or her life. Her frustration towards her identity is portrayed extremely well by Gee, who also does a good job channeling her character’s passion. Roz Owen may be wanting to make an ensemble piece, but Trouble in the Garden is more fitting as a lone and timely character study.
The film’s resolution is, as I stated, fierce. However, considering how the confrontations are staggering and tragic in nature, I wish Owen gave them a better treatment rather than jamming them into the final moments. Nonetheless, Trouble in the Garden has an ending that will rock audiences.
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Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie