Conspicuous Display

Master Gardener

Director: Paul Schrader

Cast: Sigourney Weaver, Joel Edgerton, Quintessa Swindell, Esai Morales

Running time: 1 hour 51 minutes

Film Rating: 8 out of 10

Patty Hearst, Autofocus and Card Counter auteur director Paul Schrader returns with a fascinating multigenerational character study in his new film Master Gardener starring the alluring three time Oscar nominee Sigourney Weaver (Aliens, Gorillas in the Mist and Working Girl) as a prickly and difficult yet wealthy heiress Norma Haverhill who owns a beautiful estate called Gracewood Gardens.

In this lavish estate with an extensive formal garden in the French style is a meticulous horticulturalist Narvel Roth with a murky and dangerous past, whose previous life as a white supremacist is tattooed all over his chiselled body. Brilliantly played by Australian actor Joel Edgerton (Animal Kingdom, The Great Gatsby), Narvel is escaping his terrible past and trying to redeem himself as a horticulturalist while remaining discreet as a criminal informant who spied on his own gang and got police protection under a new identity.

Narvel Roth is tasked by the demanding and vicious Norma Haverhill to look after and employ her grand-niece, Mia a young directionless girl played by Quintessa Swindell (Black Adam, Granada Nights) who enters the privileged world of her great aunt, Norma who holds court in a beautiful mansion complete with a maid and butler.

As Mia interrupts the arrangement between Narvel and Miss Haverhill, relationships unravel and the beautifully kept gardens are subjected to disruptive elements which threaten the tranquillity of Gracewood Gardens.

Scripted by Paul Schrader and using the garden as a motif for growth and rejuvenation, Master Gardener is a seductive film about the complex issues of race relations in the United States. Schrader skilfully directs the narrative weaving in contemporary themes like racism, addiction, class and succession, but what really holds Master Gardener together are three superb performances by three actors from very different generations: Sigourney Weaver, Joel Edgerton and Quintessa Swindell, all of whom are mesmerizing.

Premiering at the 2022 Venice International Film Festival, Master Gardener is a stylish thriller with complex character actions in which each one of them are tempted by sex and violence, two of Schrader’s favourite topics.

Schrader has always been fascinated by the murkier sides of human relationships, the illicit deceptions and the brimming rage within each character that he creates. After all, this is a screenwriter that wrote the iconic film Taxi Driver starring Robert de Niro and Jodie Foster.

If audiences are a fan of Paul Schrader’s films and love a good film noir thriller, then watch Master Gardener, which gets a film rating of 8 out of 10.

An intriguing story directed by an auteur at the peak of his creative powers investing all the characters with crisp and challenging dialogue.

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