Review: 'Dare To Be Wild', Mary Reynolds Biopic Never Reaches Full Bloom

What is the key to saving the environment? Well according to the movie Dare to be Wild, which is based on the true story of Mary Reynolds and her journey to competing in the Chelsea Flower Competition, one of the keys to saving the environment is to simply build more natural gardens because the gardens and lawns of today are too manicured and don't properly capture the simplicity and beauty of nature enough.

I applaud the movie for what it was attempting to say and do, but I just really could not get into or become even the slightest bit of invested in this movie or its characters. The message of the movie is there, but I think that the way in which they presented it needed a bit of work. The movie attempts to be a lot of things; it's a whimsical fairytale - equipped with talk of actual fairies, birds chirping, miraculous happenings that can't be explained, all wrapped up into a lighthearted and cartoonish-feeling production. This movie is also a cross-country, adventure-treking, rom com of sorts; equipped with the finding of oneself and their mission, and an attractive man to help you forget where your true priorities should lie.

This movie is ripe with cliches; cliches that almost un-do the core message and point of the movie which is environment preservation and sustainability. Yes, we are told what the point is, but the way in which they tell us to do that (i.e. building the natural garden) kind of overshadows the point of the movie. I understand that that the building of gardens that resemble nature is Mary's method for preserving and sustaining the environment, but the overused cliches and disconnecting elements that are used to tell the story don't really help to get that message across.

I didn't know anything about Mary Reynolds before watching this movie, but I must say that after doing a quick google search and clicking on the first YouTube video that I came across, that that short 3:48 video did more for my investment in Mary and her mission more than a 1 hr and 40 min did.

I don't how big of a role love played in her story. If it truly did play huge part, then I'll just chalk my point up to life's inability to inherently make sense. However, if it didn't play a huge part and that storyline was thrown in for the sake of making the story "more interesting," then I would have to call that decision the biggest downfall of the movie.

The story is about Mary and her journey to compete in the Chelsea Flower Competition, it's about her agency and what it is she had to do to make it happen. However, what ends up happening in the movie is that she creates and ends up going along with this narrative that she NEEDS her love interest, Christi, to be a part of and believe in her idea in order for it to come fruition. I didn't like how they made her success dependent on someone else; and the love and approval of a man at that.
Now, if that is how things truly played out, then I suppose you can forget everything that I have said up until this point about the matter; but even then, the way in which their relationship plays out on screen is still pretty infuriating.

One example from the movie that I wanted to discuss is when Mary is trying to find contractors to help her build her garden. She goes in front of this group that includes Christi to plead her case in front of everyone as to why they should get involved. They all seem pretty receptive of the idea except for Christi, in fact he completely shits on her idea in front of everyone. Then, in the very next scene, Mary is all googley-eyed at him while he walks her to his tree house - I realize now as I am writing this how weird that last part sounds, but remember this movie is part whimsical fairytale, so I guess it's true to theme. As this all unfolds you're left extremely confused thinking "well wait, why is she acting like he didn't just embarrass her in front of a group of people and call her idea and mission a waster?" That kind of inconsistency not only in their relationship but between entire scenes is what makes the movie crumble because you're left trying to make sense of what you've just seen instead of paying attention to the content and/or message of a scene.

I think it's great that a movie revolving around saving the environment was made because it is a pretty important issue. I think that it's also greta that someone like Mary Reynolds and her story were given he opportunity to be told. I think it speaks to one of the powers of movies and storytelling in the fact that it is able to shine a light on even the most niche of stories and accomplishments. However, I do think that the filmmakers could've made a better movie had they focused their sights on and paid more attention to the message and the why's of not only the message but the method as well, instead of just regurgitating out the same movie tropes that we're all so used to seeing time and time again.

Dare to be Wild is available on On Demand January 9, 2017

Rating: 1.5 out of 5