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The Hanging Garden

The Hanging Garden

Year: 1997
Language: English
Format: 35mm Colour
Runtime: 91 min
Director: Thom Fitzgerald
Producer: Louise Garfield, Arnie Gelbart, Thom Fitzgerald
Writer: Thom Fitzgerald
Cinematographer: Daniel Jobin
Editor: Susan Shanks
Music: Ashley MacIsaac, Heather Rankin, John Roby, Mary Lamond
Cast: Heather Rankin, Joel Keller, Troy Veinotte, Christine Dunsworth, Peter MacNeill, Seana McKenna, Kerry Fox, Chris Leavins, Sarah Polley
Production Company: Triptych Media Inc., Galafilm Inc., Emotion Pictures

Pitting tradition against change and layering the past with the present, Halifax filmmaker Thom Fitzgerald explores the dangers and delights of a contemporary rural Nova Scotian family in his breathtaking first feature The Hanging Garden. Part slice-of-life drama, part haunting surreal fantasy, the film is rooted entirely in a lush floral vocabulary. The Hanging Garden unearths deep family secrets, as Fitzgerald takes the audience on a lusty, comic journey through the pain of confrontation and reconciliation.

Our guide on this journey is Sweet William (Leavins), a slim, 25-year-old gay man who returns home to celebrate his sister’s wedding in the family garden after an absence of 10 years. Everything is pretty much as he left it: his drunken, abusive father, Mac (MacNeill), is still tending the flower garden — and not his family — while his mother, Iris (McKenna), suffers in guilty silence. His grandmother Grace (Orenstein) is senile and obsessively religious, the dog is blind and his chainsmoking, foul-mouthed sister Rosemary (Fox) is as warm and boisterous as ever.

Nothing has changed, that is, except for Sweet William. Ten years earlier, he was a 300-pound teenager (played with beauty by Veinotte) who got caught in some friendly sexual horseplay with Fletcher (Keller), who is now about to marry Rosemary. William had tried to hang himself from a tree in the garden, and the image of him swinging there, waiting to be cut free, remains so real to his family, they still see it.

Stunning photography, tight pacing, a star-studded score and a strong ensemble cast make The Hanging Garden a sensual pleasure from start to finish. With sophistication and good humour, Fitzgerald uses the poetry of everyday life to show not only that we can go home again, but that we must, if our hearts are to heal.

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