Rent Master Gardener (2022)

3.0 of 5 from 128 ratings
1h 46min
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Narvel Roth (Joel Edgerton) is the meticulous horticulturist of Gracewood Gardens. He is as much devoted to tending the grounds of this beautiful and historic estate, as he is to pandering to his employer, the wealthy dowager Mrs. Norma Haverhill (Sigourney Weaver). When Mrs. Haverhill demands that he take on her wayward and troubled great-niece Maya (Quintessa Swindell) as a new apprentice, chaos enters Narvel's spartan existence, unlocking dark secrets from a buried violent past that threatens them all...
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Amanda Crittenden, David Gonzales, Scott LaStaiti
Paul Schrader
Drama, Thrillers
Release Date:
Run Time:
106 minutes
English Dolby Digital 5.1, English Dolby Digital Stereo
English Hard of Hearing
DVD Regions:
Region 2
Aspect Ratio:
Widescreen 2.39:1

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Reviews (3) of Master Gardener

Unoriginal Thriller - Master Gardener review by GI

Spoiler Alert

This film sits very squarely in writer/director Paul Schrader's oeuvre, indeed one might argue it's a rehash of themes and characters he's done before. The isolated male with a dark past is a tired story unless it has some injection of originality. Sadly that doesn't occur here and Joel Edgerton's Narvel is obviously one of these hackneyed characters from the very outset. He's a skilled and dedicated gardener on a large estate owned by the stern Miss Haverhill (Sigourney Weaver) with whom he enjoys other 'benefits'! When she brings her wayward niece, Maya, onto the estate to be apprenticed to Narvel events open up revealing Narvel's dark and mysterious past. Overall the various relationships are rather cold, unexplained and stilted and thus become quite unbelievable and we are never given any idea why Narvel is so good and dedicated to gardening despite flashbacks to explain his past. When the narrative threatens to spill over into violence it lets the side down and ends up as a damp squib. A tired, unoriginally themed film that fails to go anywhere interesting.

1 out of 1 members found this review helpful.

A bit underwhelming - Master Gardener review by AB

Spoiler Alert

To be honest, I didn't dislike this film. It kept me entertained for a bit under 2 hours. I was just rather underwhelmed as the film progressed. There is one spine-tingling moment when the back-story of the master gardener is suddenly revealed. One might expect fireworks after that but they never happen. It is reasonably well acted with Sigourney Weaver putting in the best performance as the stern owner of the huge estate.

0 out of 0 members found this review helpful.

Awful, Boring, Sermonising, Unbelievable Fake ale about Race, Class and Gardening. - Master Gardener review by PV

Spoiler Alert

This started well, but I hated this film - I did not believe the story or the characters, as if they were cardboard cut-outs plonked into the scenario created by the writer/director to make some points about race and social class.

It was, in a word, boring. And annoying. When the backstories kick in the movie loses all momentum and becomes al about woke virtue-signalling and box-ticking. It'd be less boring to watch grass grow, frankly.

The great-niece character looks remarkably pretty for a drug addict raised in poverty too, so that is all absurd.

AND this has perhaps the worst sex scene it has ever been my displeasure to see - it is not explicit. It is just absurd and SO badly-written I burst out laughing as my eyes rolled like pinballs. Just goes to show that even experienced directors can get it all SO wrong. It would have been 2 stars without that scene.

Also, knowing something about gardens I can say the assertion formal geometric gardens are FRENCH and wild landscaped gardens are ENGLISH is piffle. The Tudors etc loved geometric gardens which had control over Nature - read Shakespeare, as the garden metaphor is everpresent. The age of the Romantics in the 18th century meant the aristocracy grew to like natural settings, however fake and designed, with fake follies and even paid hermits on their land. All a romantic fantasy of the upper classes, like Marie Antoinette cosplaying a shepheress. NOTHING to do with nationality..

1 star

0 out of 1 members found this review helpful.

Critic review

Master Gardener review by Mark McPherson - Cinema Paradiso

Master Gardener plays like a typical Paul Schrader film in his twilight years. Consider his past few films. First Reformed was about a priest trying to come to terms with his past and faith while quietly documenting his thoughts at night in his bedroom. The Card Counter was about a card-playing pro trying to come to terms with his past and violent nature while quietly documenting his thoughts at night in his bedroom. Now, we come to Master Gardener, the tale of a gardener trying to come to terms with his past, racism, and drugs while quietly documenting his thoughts at night in his bedroom. Compared to the two previous films, Master Gardner is easily the weakest of the three. That said, it still has some of that old Schrader magic that works so well.

The titular gardener is Narvel Roth (Joel Edgerton), a horticulturist who has buried himself in his work. He takes his work at Gracewood Gardens very seriously, tending to the grounds of the wealthy dowager Mrs. Haverhill (Sigourney Weaver). He’s hoping his work and journalism will allow him to start over and place his life of being a neo-Nazi behind him. He works well enough that Mrs. Haverhill, who relies on Roth for sexual favors, is convinced that he’s ready to reform someone else’s life. So, into the garden, Haverhill’s grandniece, Maya (Quintessa Swindell), walks. She’s seeking to reform her life and takes advantage of a job offer. Narvel welcomes her with gentle arms into his community of gardeners, and she seems to be doing well. Only once her past comes back to bite her that Narvel becomes more involved with her, going beyond mentor and protege.

As with Schrader’s past protagonists, Narvel is a complex character with a fascinating insight into the darker corners of humanity. Slowly, glimpses of his past are revealed through his Nazi tattoos and memories of violence. He routinely meets with witness protection that keeps him out of harm’s way for turning on his white supremacist associates. It feels as though Narvel has to keep himself reserved and not reveal his past to continue to exist. Edgerton’s performance is incredible for playing a subdued man struggling to hold back on his darker side. Adhering to the Schrader playbook, he nails this role with gusto.

He also adheres to the Schrader playbook to find a love interest in the newest woman in his life. It shouldn’t come as much of a shock that Maya soon takes on a sexual relationship with Narvel, despite knowing his past. Comparatively, their relationship seems more out of convenience and rebellion than a genuine development of passion. This is mostly due to how Narvel comes to the rescue by infiltrating drug dens and showcasing his violent side when it comes to helping Maya find her way out of the labyrinth of users and abusers. The relationship also takes on a new meaning when it flies in the face of what Mrs. Haverhill meant by “keeping it in the family” for Maya staying at her estate.

Master Gardener is not Paul Schrader at his best, but just like with pizza, even when it’s cold, it’s still pretty good. There are plenty of immaculate moments of lingering in the gardener and getting lost within Narvel’s meticulous head. The performances are strong, and the blunt nature of sex and violence is uniquely woven once more. While not as stylish or intoxicating as First Reformed or The Card Counter, I still found myself enraptured with this crime thriller that is a step above the rest of the modern genre, even if it’s not a step up for Schrader and feels more like a walk in the park (or garden) for this accomplished director.

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