* Spoilers, dear lord, spoilers *
We begin with a chap in a graveyard, digging as if a casket is going to be buried feet first.
Grace (Brenda Blethyn) is tending plants in her greenhouse before heading out for her husband’s funeral. She’s in bits, of course. She has such a wonderful face for drama, so much feeling comes through in her eyes, she’s astonishing.
Leslie Phillips is the vicar – excellent piece of casting there.
It’s clear from the way Grace moves around the room, with a plate of sandwiches and an open bottle of wine, she’s used to looking after people.
Speculation over how one became a corpse does seem to be a common theme in funeral scenes in films.
There was an interloper at the cemetery. Grace is concerned. It turns out neither she, nor the other woman, felt that her husband was much cop in the bedroom. They bond over red wine later in the film. It’s not a comfortable bonding but perhaps better to get it out of the way. The way Grace gets her to leave is stunning. If only for that line, watch this film. I promise you, Brenda Blethyn is a marvel.
Everyone is pretending not to smoke weed, particularly when the local policeman hoves into view. It may be a small area but seemingly everyone’s on it.
The trouble with funerals, in general, is that everyone will be more than happy to offer help. Until they’re actually asked for help. This is something I can tell you with some authority. Everyone will be there for the lately bereaved – until about three weeks later – then they are somewhat obliged to go back to their own lives. There will be Christmas cards, birthdays, the usual catch-up, but no real assistance once those three weeks have passed.
The ladies in the shop don’t want to charge Grace for whatever is on her account. They make a point of not wanting to charge her full price for paracetamol. A tin-rattler tries to avoid her offered coin. They all know something she doesn’t. She’ll inherit the estate but also the mortgage. Her late husband used the house as collateral for business deals which failed to amount to anything. She’s looking at no money in the estate and finding some means of paying out £2,000 per month in mortgage repayments. Obviously, she knew nothing of these failed business ventures. Grief is hard enough to contend with; throw in some financial difficulties and you’ve got a recipe for disaster.
The vicar asks if Grace has a stock portfolio, even though he doesn’t really know what that is. It transpires, Grace has a Swiss bank account, with nothing in it. She’s practically shredding paper – there’s nothing but debt looking back at her in big red letters.
The gardener-slash-handyman is on a night out with his girlfriend and the local doctor. I don’t think you can really call it a night out unless a doctor wakes up on your sofa.
Grace attempts to go on as normal, ladies’ mornings and chatter about the doctor, but her gardener-slash-handyman is falling out with bailiffs who are bound to take her ride-on mower away. The gardener-slash-handyman has an idea. Grace has a green thumb, she can revive a great number of plants, and the handyman’s stock of marijuana plants are dying a death hidden away under foliage in the back garden of the vicarage. Grace scolds him for not looking after them properly. They need light and warmth and a greenhouse.
Now, I don’t think it occurs to Grace that she’s growing something illegal, that she’s participating in a venture that could get her into trouble. As far as I can see, she’s just trying to help some plants to flourish, and she’s quite proud that she’s been able to guide the foliage to budding.
And boom – the house is up for auction. She has no idea, because like anybody else, she’s stopped opening her post. Matt the handyman is a useful height for getting a measuring man to leave.
Grace owes £300,000. None of it is her doing, but she’s inherited the debt.
Those who are owed could claim from the estate and as such, take all her possessions and her house. She lights a cigarette and who can blame her.
And now she has a plan. She knows how to grow shed-loads of the naughty plants, hydroponically, the sales of which would settle her debts. Of course, all the lighting in the greenhouse will be noticed in the area. The resultant light is blinding.
Some time ago, when I was training to be an electrician, one of the chaps in my class had the idea of rigging up new lighting in his attic, just to prove he knew how to wire in the different types of luminaires: he fitted battens, pendants, fluorescents, downlighters, bulkheads, wall lights, showstopper lights. He built them in perfectly. One night, a police helicopter went over his house, the police read the heat coming from his attic as indicative of an illegal harvest and he wound up with a visit from the boys in blue. Thankfully, he was able to bore them to tears with tales of the inherent complications involved in under cabinet downlight configuration.
The lighting and photography in this film are astounding. It’s a tremendous choice of location, the landscape of rugged rocks and spinning clouds lends itself to Grace’s turmoil. Watching Brenda Blethyn act stoned maybe one of the highlights of my celluloid life.