Mastodon Mastodon Mastodon Mastodon Mastodon MOVIES: Master Gardener - Review

SpoilerTV - TV Spoilers

MOVIES: Master Gardener - Review

Share on Reddit

Paul Schrader’s Master Gardener is the kind of film that deliberately sets out to challenge your expectations. The third in a loose trilogy of redemptive, destructive leading men that follows the back of First Reformed and The Card Counter, with Ethan Hawke and Oscar Isaac respectively, starring Joel Edgerton in the lead. It’s rough, turbulent and questioning of your morals and attitudes towards the complex dynamic of its leads that will make even the most open-minded about redemption think twice. Its complex lead questions the nature of complexity and ambiguity in an openly challenging way.

Master Gardener like all of Schraders work, borrows from Bresson – the loneliness, the repetitiveness and the meditation of Edgerton’s Narvel Roth filter through here: brave, troubled and haunting. The flashbacks are short and sweet but no less than shocking as we delve into his twisted past; an ex Neo-Nazi who flipped on the group after his wife and child left him because of his actions now has to live with the guilt and shame of what he’s done. Narvel never thought he’d find peace gardening; but such peace is only temporary in Schrader films – natural change shows up when the young granddaughter of wealthy dowager Mrs. Haverhill (Sigourney Weaver), Maya – shows up; the two find a temporary connection as he tries to keep his past hidden from her.

Quintessa Swindell’s vulnerability and inner-strength that she brings to Maya’s character comes out on screen in a brilliant force of understated rage opposite Edgerton’s quite aloofness. It’s hard not to see the relationship between Maya and Narvel that forms as a result of this film being for anyone but fans of Schrader’s work – it’s uncomfortable, awkward and questioning at the best of times – but the romantic nature and meditative calm of it and Narvel’s new lifestyle is nothing less than rejuvenating. A sense of healing wonderment embraces this film and the slower pace is kind of a requirement; less showy than The Card Counter, less shocky than First Reformed, this is helped by the fact that there’s not exactly a lot of punishment here that you’d expect a typical Schrader lead to endure: this film feels like it would take place after the previous Schrader movies have ended; or before they begin. Even back to Light Sleeper and Blue Collar you see the career of Schrader evolve – lacking the violence of Taxi Driver but it makes up for all of that by the fact that this movie has the most irredeemable background nature of his lead; making this a much more challenging prospect than what has come before. It comes to light in the haunting visuals of his tattoos that do all the talking for you – the way the camera lingers on them makes it haunting and your skin will almost certainly crawl; a truly repulsive past.

Bleakly funny in places – with a particular shirt worn by an FBI character who Narvel visits during the film showing moments of peak irony and comedy – Schraders’ inherit challenge of testing the audience is never moreso apparent than here. It openly challenges the fetishisation of imagery and visuals that have developed in a restrained, beaten down way – somewhat feeling like the first act of say, Taxi Driver but stretched out into an entire film: you keep expecting a Green Room style third act that never truly comes and it feels all the more perplexing because of it; restrained in its conclusion that takes pride in the gardening aspect of replenishing beauty and quietness, openly as metaphors. The healing process of walking on the soil is understated with a many overwritten, overwrought voiceover if you didn’t get the message immediately – and Master Gardener makes sure to get its point across in a challenging way.

You haven’t seen a movie like Master Gardener before and you most likely won’t for a while. Complicated and context defying in a way that the film hasn’t truly touched on: Master Gardener puts flowers as the cure and the embrace in nature as the way forward. A masterwork that is only for the Schrader-heads; those Schrader heads that do like it won’t be disappointed. It certainly – unlike bafflingly The Card Counter, won’t be a favourite of Barack Obama this year.

Sign Up for the SpoilerTV Newsletter where we talk all things TV!


SpoilerTV Available Ad-Free!

Support SpoilerTV is now available ad-free to for all subscribers. Thank you for considering becoming a SpoilerTV premmium member!
Latest News