- Release Date: 2016
- Director and Screenwriter: Simon Aboud
- Cast: Jessica Brown Findlay, Andrew Scott, Jeremy Irvine, Tom Wilkinson
- Rating: PG
- Runtime: 100 minutes
This movie should be required viewing for anyone who cherishes beauty, heart and imaginative story telling. Plus, to see This Beautiful Fantastic, gives you bragging rights in a decade from now when this plucky film joins the select society of “cult classics”. It could turn out to be the Millennial generation’s The Princess Bride. And it’ll remind any of its lucky audience that we go to the cinema to be enchanted by expert storytellers, earnest actors, visual spectacle and lasting memories. This Beautiful Fantastic offers all of this…..and more.
The few critics that wrote about this film had mixed reactions. Some dismissed it as a piece of high-calorie cinematic cotton candy. The majority of reviewers offered faint praise and an ‘attaboy’ slap on the back; applause but no standing ovation from these scribes. But then, a movie bereft of controversial topics, CGI-generated spectacle, headache-inducing soundtracks, sweeping camera shots that cause vertigo and scene-stealing overacting quickly drops off the critics’ radar. Only 8 top critics took the time to write about this movie, according to Rotten Tomatoes – only 50% offered any praise.
However, moviegoers are a different breed of cinemaphiles. They go to films to be entertained and whisked off to another world through a set of intriguing eyes. We first saw this film in January 2016 at the Palm Springs International Film Festival. We were totally enchanted by the film, as were the majority of the festival attendees: it was voted among the Best of the Fest.
Two years later, we chose to watch the film again, just to affirm that the lovely memories it left with us were still available to online streamers. Sure enough, the film wasn’t just beautifully fantastic, it was even better on the second viewing. We were treated to a view of the world through the eyes of Bella Brown, a young woman who began life as a foundling, left in a box by a river as a baby, hovered over by protective ducks. Raised by nuns, Bella grows up to be a 20-something librarian, who harbors dreams of writing a children’s book. She also has what appears to be quirky but charming OCD tendencies that are slowly tamed by connection, affection and, finally, love.
As the other characters in the movie soon learn, to know Bella is to love Bella despite the protective emotional moat that she’s constructed to preserve her highly constricted life. The first person to build a bridge across that moat is an insecure but loving personal chef who struggles to raise two young girls on a modest income. A cranky, old neighbor finds himself wandering across the moat and falling under Bella’s unlikely spell. Finally, an earnest inventor/dreamer transverses the moat and sees Bella’s big heart, inspiring imagination and the glorious life lensed through her eyes.
The audience is fortunate that writer/director Simon Aboud has found a way to introduce us to the world as seen through Bella’s eyes. As she first tastes friendship, then love and caps it off with embracing beauty, viewers are transported to a world where the simplest beauty nourishes the soul. Gardens become art pieces that Monet would have envied. Bella transforms a mechanical bird into a majestic creature on a journey of self discovery. A modest one-room British flat becomes a palace housing truth, beauty and integrity. And an afternoon sun-shower is nothing less than a welcome moment of rebirth.
This Beautiful Fantastic isn’t a movie as much as it’s an ode to how the subtle beauty that surrounds us provides a wealth and sustenance that is unavailable to even the most wealthy amongst us, unless they open up their eyes and hearts to it. Those who take the time to notice the beauty all around us can enjoy all of the true riches that life offers: friendship, love, happiness and achievement. The first step in Aboud’s true-wealth program is taking 100 minutes to watch This Beautiful Fantastic. It’s available on most streaming platforms – iTunes, Amazon, YouTube and others. The next few steps become readily obvious upon viewing………