GROW YOUR OWN
When a refugee family is given an allotment of land by the British Government to help rehabilitate Kung Sang (Benedict Wong), the locals are resentful. After all, they have worked passionately for their gardens for years. Things come to a head when Carla (Sarah Hadland), representing a mobile phone company, offers the plot owners £5,000 compensation for a piece of land on which to build a mast, which means that one resident will lose his plot.
Review by Louise Keller:
It's what could be termed a gentle comedy, this story about immigrants trying to blend into the fabric of rural British society. Penned by bass player Carl Hunter turned first time screenwriter and Frank Cottrell Boyce, whose credentials includes Hilary and Jackie and 24 Hour Party People, the film was originally titled The Allotment, which is more indicative of the storyline. An allotment is a piece of communal land divided into individual lots, and as one little Indian boy describes, it 'provides a rustic oasis in the industrial desert'. The story starts slowly but like the vegetables that are lovingly planted into the soil, it eventually starts to grow on us.
We get to know the characters. There's the Chinese man (Benedict Wong) who has been so traumatised, he is unable to speak. His two young children are forced to become his carers 'Can't you just make him the way he used to be,' they ask. Miriam (Diveen Henry), the attractive African refugee who lives with her son is unwilling to accept the fact her husband is dead, while Ali (Omid Djalili), a former doctor finds himself in demand for medical advice. The conflict comes from Big John (Philip Jackson) whose nonsensical rules (such as painting all the sheds regulation red) become a source of aggravation to all. Sarah Hadland's Carla from the mobile phone company, who offers a £5,000 enticement in return for a plot of land, is a nasty piece of work. Although it initially appears to be a straight forward decision to oust one of the immigrant residents from their land, the decision becomes more and more complicated as the immigrants become accepted into the society and endear themselves to each other.
There's an amusing story thread in which Eddie Marsan's Little John starts wearing a bright coloured shirt that looks like 'an accident in a paint factory' in a bid to attract a female resident, and another in which Kenny (Alan Williams) insists of painting his shed blue instead of red, like everyone else. Unexpected friendships start to blossom and situations change. I found some of the dialogue difficult to understand but essentially this is a routinely pleasant small comedy that explores Britain's immigration issues and is relevant enough to touch a nerve anywhere.
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GROW YOUR OWN (PG)
CAST: Benedict Wong, Eddie Marsan, Omid Djalili, Alan Williams, Philip Jackson, Pearce Quigley, John Henshaw
PRODUCER: Luke Alkin, Carl Hunter, Barry Ryan
DIRECTOR: Richard Laxton
SCRIPT: Frank Cottrell Boyce, Carl Hunter
CINEMATOGRAPHER: David Luther
EDITOR: Joe Walker
MUSIC: Martin Phipps
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Melanie Allen
RUNNING TIME: 100 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Rialto
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: November 20, 2008