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Dare to Be Wild

In the pantheons of landscape and garden design, Mary Reynolds is the horticultural equivalent of a rock star. In 2002, she became a cause celebre with her first entry at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show - a Celtic sanctuary garden steeped in mysticism and full of rambling wild flowers, moss and hawthorn trees, accessed via a stone circular arch. Her intention, to recapture the untouched splendour of the countryside that has been lost in formal modern gardens, struck a chord and sowed the seeds of a design movement dedicated to natural simplicity. Writer-director Vivienne DeCourcy's sun-dappled drama chronicles Reynolds' remarkable journey from the rambling landscapes of West Cork to the leafy sprawl of SW3 London, via the arid deserts of eastern Africa. It's an incredible true story of triumph and daring against convention. Alas, the spirit of adventure and steely determination that propelled Reynolds to glory fails to germinate in DeCourcy's gently paced and occasionally twee script. A budding romance between two characters doesn't achieve full bloom and the film's dramatic crescendo - the race to construct the garden in time for judging - lacks any sense of urgency. From a young age, Mary Reynolds (Emma Greenwell) is inspired by her father to cherish the natural world and her Celtic roots. She sketches magical gardens in a notebook and when the time comes to spread her wings, Mary secures a job working with Charlotte Heavey (Christine Marzano), garden designer to the rich and fabulous. Charlotte exploits her protegee's talent and shamelessly steals design elements and passes them off as her own genius. "Make sure you're not ripped off," best friend Eve (Lorna Quinn) warns Mary to no avail. When the position falls through, Mary nurtures a dream to create a garden at the coveted Chelsea Flower Show. With the help of Marigold (Janie Dee), secretary to stuffy Chelsea committee member Nigel Hogg (Alex Macqueen), Mary gains an invitation to compete with her revolutionary design. She enlists the help of handsome botanist Christy Collard (Tom Hughes) and his father Mike (Brendan Somers) to source native plants and materials, and transport them safely across the Irish Sea. They have just 80 days to secure £250,000 of sponsorship and a further three weeks to turn a plot of flat earth into Mary's ambitious vision. However, the project relies on wanderer Christy, who is spearheading a project to reclaim the Ethiopian desert. Dare To Be Wild looks magnificent, but our interest wilts well before the flower show judges bestow their coveted gold medals. Greenwell is instantly endearing and she makes an attractive pairing with Hughes, but their on-screen chemistry doesn't justify Mary's obsession to build her garden with Christy at her side. Potential dramatic conflict in the second hour with Marzano's manipulative boss oddly comes to naught.