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Cement Garden, The

Andrew Birken

Birkin was awarded Best Director at the 1993 Berlin Film Festival for his adaptation of Ian McEwan’s first, highly acclaimed novel, a distrubing story of four children left to their own devices after the death of both parents. Jack is an unhppy fifteen-year–old and his relationshop with his father is the focus of adolescent frustration. One day, whilst the two of them are pouring cement over their weed-infested garden, his father collapses and dies. Soon, his mother (Sinead Cusack) becomes ill and also dies. Jack and his sister Julie, fearful of being taken into care and separated, look after their brother and sister without telling anyone of their orphaned state. In their isolated home, surrounded by an urban wasteland, they create an incestuous analogue of family life. The summer is hot and long. Jack becomes increasingly self-absorbed. Julie sunbathes in weed-infested grass. But this stange idyll cannot last.
The Cement Garden is surely-paced, economically edited and shot with distinction by Stephen Blackman. It is a resonant film not just because of this, but also because it takes up no attitude, except one that perceives that the world of childhood and adolescence is often a strange place, and made no simpler by the dictates of conventional morality. Your have to divest yourself of a lot of baggage while watching it. It is worth the effort.

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