If you had to think of cracking films about prisons and gardens on this side of the Atlantic, you might come up with Scum, say, and The Draughtsman's Contract. You wouldn't pause for breath at Peter Cattaneo's cute crime caper Lucky Break, or last year's wilting weed flick Saving Grace. Sadly, Joel Hershman's rehab-through-gardening rom-com sits in the same wet soil as the latter two.
If the pitch of hardened horticultural criminals sounds like it might score on perversity alone, the film's shamelessly conventional trimmings soon put paid to that. You've seen this British-pluck-triumphing-over-adversity pap before, made either by a Brit with a sniper's eye on US takings or, as here, an American with a thing for that famous `British eccentricity'. The cheesy characters are bad enough, ranging from salt-of-the-earth psychos to posh totty and old lag; at the film's lowest point, Clive Owen's `rousing' we-won't-be-beat speech could have been cut from Independence Day. Throw in a love interest called Primrose and it's no surprise that global warming hasn't hit Hershman's little England - - there's no rain on this film's sun-dappled disposition.
Owen, David Kelly, Helen Mirren and Natasha Little gamely struggle to spruce up the skimpy script, but they can't do much with their characters' primary-school level life lessons. It's redemption and rehabilitation whittled down to genre mechanics, making a line like "sometimes it takes very little to put things right" sound like an excuse for doing "very little", not some noble truth.
Sure, you could argue that Hershman's a generous helmsman - - at least his characters are given the chance to change. But he's trading in tougher issues than his undernourished film can cope with. Brit-hit packaging or not, it'll be a miracle if it survives out there.
Somehow, Joel Hershman has made a film about prisoners getting soppy about flowers seem like something you've seen a thousand times before. Even a sterling cast can't put any colour in this bland garden. The root of it? It's just boring.