14 July 2009 | The_Void
Fascinating and surreal drama
The Cement Garden is based on a book by Ian McEwan and follows a group of siblings as they try to cope with the loss of their parents. However, there is much more to this film than merely the basic plot outline; through interesting character design, surreal locations and a gentle stream of shocking happenings; writer-director Andrew Birkin has created a truly unique and fascinating piece of cinema. Of all the films I have seen, I can't think of a single one that is really anything like this one. The film takes place in and around an isolated house surrounded by concrete (presumably on the edge of a town). The house is inhabited by two adults and four children; until the father dies of a heart attack, and the mother's health deteriorates until her eventual death shortly thereafter. This then leaves the four children to fend for themselves. The eldest siblings, Julie and Jack, decide to hide the mother's body in the basement rather than allowing themselves to go into care. The event affects each of the children in different ways.
The Cement Garden is characterised by its setting; a large and morose house stands amidst a landscape made purely of concrete. This location serves the story as it creates isolation and separates the central family from the rest of the population. The film's colour scheme is based on grey and the gloominess of it helps to enforce the melancholy nature of the story. The film features plenty of shocks and breaks many taboos; but everything is presented in such a gentle manner that most of things featured actually seem quite normal, and that in turn makes them even more shocking. The film really is quite daring, and even more so for the fact that the central cast is so young. The dialogue can be quite awkward at times but the actors make the best of it. The film does become more surreal as it moves along, and while the ending of the film is not really a surprise; it still does manage to provide a shock. Overall, The Cement Garden is an excellent adaptation and well worth a look.