Does your mind feel dry and fallow? Does your imagination need some fertilizer? Take a look at these six movies that will encourage, move, and provoke any plant-lover.
A Man Named Pearl (2006)
Key Words: Documentary, Black Gardens Matter, Uplifting
Synopsis: This documentary showcases Pearl Fryar, a Black self-taught gardener and topiary artist from North Carolina, as he perseveres in building his beautiful green vision despite societal forces pressing against him.
Why to Watch: Pearl Fryar is an inspiration to us all, regardless of how you prefer to keep your garden. Hardship and oppression only led him to create a world of living art. Seeing that world through his eyes is a deeply moving honor.
Fantastic Fungi (2019)
Key Words: Documentary, Mind-Blowing, Visually-Stunning
Synopsis: Narrated by Brie Larsen, Fantastic Fungi swoops down into the amazing world of fungi and highlights how they can change us—and our world. Paul Stamets, self-taught mycologist, enthusiastically brings us along on this journey, along with other experts like Michael Pollan and Eugenia Bone.
Why to Watch: If you don’t already interact with fungi, this documentary will make you want to go out into the forest and listen to the wisdom of the mycelium. Between visuals that boggle the mind, sonically awesome sound design, and just the joy of Paul Staments, it’s difficult not to join #TeamMushroom after seeing this film.
Lemon Tree (2008)
Key Words: Drama, Sensitive, Bittersweet
Synopsis: In almost a fairy-tale fashion, Lemon Tree (‘Etz Limon/‘Shajaret Leimoun) depicts the struggle of a Palestinian widow, Salma, as she must try to save her family’s lemon grove from her new next door neighbor: the Israeli defense minister. Transforming the struggles of the region into the conflict over Salma’s groves, the director brings humanity to what is often just seen as politics.
Why to Watch: The grove of lemon trees, while also serving as a metaphor for the struggles of the Palestinian people, is just a beautiful reminder of each of our connection to nature. Salma’s determination to fight for creatures other than herself, though they are only plants, will hopefully inspire each of us to consider and combat the forces that encroach on our own beloved realms of nature.
Saving Grace (2000)
Key Words: Comedy, British, Whimsical
Synopsis: Set in Cornwall, a prim British widow (played by the extraordinary Brenda Blethyn), is forced to grow weed in her greenhouse to pay off her husband’s debts, with the help of her stoner gardener (Craig Ferguson). Light, funny, charming, and sweet, this movie is a trifle you might devour if you had the munchies. Not everything has to be heavy to be scrumptious.
Why to Watch: I’m not saying grow weed in your greenhouse. TOTALLY not saying grow weed in your greenhouse. I am saying that it’s a joy to watch a woman who was repressed her whole life, despite her gift for plants, grow in such wild and wonderful ways. Her growth is contagious and will inspire us to let our own gardens get a little wild and weird. A note for Angolphilic TV fans: Doc Martin is a spin off of this movie.
The Private Life of Plants (1995)
Key Words: Documentary, Educational, Awe-Inspiring
Synopsis: Told in six hour-long episodes, Sir David Attenborough and the British Broadcasting Corporation set out to show the lives of plants using time-lapse sequences. Sped up to a pace humans can understand, we see plants traveling, growing, and existing as social beings in a way we never have before.
Why to Watch: This is peak Attenborough, so caveat emptor, but if you can enjoy his style, The Private Life of Plants has some of the most amazing outdoors time-lapse filmography ever. It’s so soothing yet awe-inspiring to see these tiny details of plants elapse before your eyes, making you wonder what the plants you live with are really doing.
The Garden (1990)
Key Words: Non-Traditional Drama, Artistic, Deep
Synopsis: One hundred and eighty degrees different from Attenborough, British filmmaker’s Derek Jarman’s The Garden is a non-linear art-house film with little dialogue. He uses religious iconography (including Tilda Swinton as the Madonna) to muse on homosexuality, Christianity, and mortality. These meditations are juxtaposed with representations of the ongoing AIDS crisis and the oppression experienced by LBGTQ+ English folx like Jarman. In the opening narration, Jarman explains that he offers the viewer “a journey without direction, uncertainty, and no sweet conclusion.”
Why to Watch: While a deeply challenging film to watch, you can also feel the deep love Jarman had for the setting, which was his real-life home, garden, and the countryside around it. Lovers of nature can’t help but be moved as he transforms his quotidian setting into the Gardens of Eden and Gethsemane, showing nature’s meditative and creative powers.