Frances Hodgson Burnett’s 1911 kids’s e-book The Secret Backyard has as soon as once more been tailored for the display screen. Critics have famous that the movie a few therapeutic backyard has come simply on the proper time, with The Telegraph calling it “a glowing COVID antidote”.
Earlier filmed variations appeared in 1919, 1949, and 1993. Since these iterations, nonetheless, the world has develop into extra tech-enabled and the lives of kids extra dominated by screens than ever.
Ofcom within the UK estimates that the typical three-to-four-year-old spends round three hours a day in entrance of a display screen. This rises to 4 hours for ages 5 to seven, 4.5 hours by ages eight to 11, and 6.5 hours for youngsters. Time spent taking part in outside, consequently, is at an all-time low. It could be a marvel then, why, in 2020, a brand new movie about taking part in exterior is being launched to an viewers that appears so disconnected from it.
2020 has been, to say the least, an odd yr. And, after a nationwide lockdown and restrictions at present being reimposed over giant components of the UK, The Secret Backyard, a narrative concerning the therapeutic qualities of nature – the place magic, pleasure and, importantly, escape could be discovered – speaks to kids (and adults) greater than ever. “It sees a bunch of traumatised individuals who don’t get out a lot discover solace in gardening and contemporary air,” notes Helen O’Hara in Empire talking concerning the similarities between the Edwardian solid of characters and our present actuality.
The story follows Mary Lennox, a self-centred and uncared for youngster, who’s pressured to maneuver to her uncle’s property in Yorkshire after her dad and mom die from cholera in India. Left to her personal gadgets and struggling to regulate, Mary finds distraction in exploring the property’s huge grounds. It’s on one among these jaunts that she discovers a hidden backyard. Overgrown and mysterious, the place was locked years earlier than by her uncle after his spouse died in it.
The backyard is, unsurprisingly, irresistible to Mary and, alongside along with her spoiled cousin Colin who believes he’s disabled, and the good-natured Dickon, a kindly maid’s little brother, she finds that it’s greater than only a place to play. There nature has the ability to heal, create relationships and produce pleasure; the backyard additionally can assist mend the injuries of the previous, reworking hopeless grief to chance.
The significance of nature as a supply of therapeutic has develop into more and more clear during times of lockdown as we discover ourselves eager for inexperienced areas as an escape from the information and our personal 4 partitions. Gardens (these of us who’ve them) and native parks and inexperienced areas develop into necessary areas the place kids can run round and adults can take a second to reset. Like in The Secret Backyard, we’ve found nature anew and it has restored us.
In kids’s literature, gardens are a spot for dreaming, adventures, and even for time journey. In books corresponding to Philippa Pearce’s Tom’s Midnight Backyard, Lucy M Boston’s The Kids of Inexperienced Knowe and Andre Norton’s Lavender-Inexperienced Magic, the backyard takes kids again in time. There they meet individuals from the backyard’s historical past or different traditionally necessary people. They’ve run-ins with their ancestors or undertake actions to save lots of different (often younger) characters from the previous who have been handled badly or at risk.
The backyard is a spot to “repair” errors and study concerning the nice thriller and circle of life. Gardens, additionally, symbolize time itself: they by no means cease rising and altering. Each seed planted carries inside it the hopes we’ve for the longer term.
Whereas The Secret Backyard will not be a time-travel gadget as such, it does act as a conduit between the previous and current. In it the household’s historical past is uncovered and reckoned with, altering the current and setting them on a course to a brand new, extra hopeful future collectively.
This connection between gardens and time (and time journey) may attraction to 2020 viewers who’re searching for a option to join the previous with an unsure future. On this story that many adults maintain pricey, they will rediscover their childhood and escape for a second in nostalgia for an easier time.
As soon as we enter the backyard, nonetheless, who we’re impacts how we relate to it. Kids have a very totally different relationship to gardens than adults: adults see the backbreaking work that goes into them, whereas kids profit from all that arduous work and solely see a spot to run and play. For the kids in The Secret Backyard, the backyard is a spot of discovery, enjoyable, and restoration, in that order. And that’s probably the primary key to the story’s longevity: it feeds right into a religion in nature as therapeutic, one thing troublesome to disregard amid the friction over local weather change and the destruction of some ecosystems.
The previous seven months of lockdowns have fostered a starvation for private inexperienced areas. With the latest movie model of The Secret Backyard, our love affair with gardens is once more delivered to the large — and small — display screen, the place these of us who’ve been caught inside can unlock the backyard gate and, with a childlike innocence we yearn for, enter a magical inexperienced wonderland to make the most of the therapeutic properties and timeless qualities of a backyard that has been ready for us.
Tiffani Angus doesn’t work for, seek the advice of, personal shares in or obtain funding from any firm or group that will profit from this text, and has disclosed no related affiliations past their tutorial appointment.