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Review: How sweet the laughter

Grace Trevethan is a recently widowed housewife with genteel English manners, a large estate and a famously green thumb. Her late husband mortgaged their seaside property, lost it all in business ventures and left her a 300,000 pound debt. She is desperate to save her home, and her gardener has an idea how: grow 40 kilos of high-grade marijuana in her greenhouse and sell it to a London drug dealer.
It sounds like the plot of a screwball comedy for pot-smoking teenagers, but Saving Grace, a sly mixture of low and medium brow humour filmed on England's fetching Cornish coast, is a screwball comedy for scofflaws of all ages.


An English widow on the Cornish coast turns to growing marijuana to pay off debt in Saving Grace, now playing in Bratislava.
photo: Courtesy of Continental Films

Saving Grace (Biela vdova)

Running time: 93 minutes
Starring: Brenda Blethyn, Craig Ferguson
Playing in Bratislava at: Charlie Centrum
Rating: 8 out of 10

Grace Trevethan is a recently widowed housewife with genteel English manners, a large estate and a famously green thumb. Her late husband mortgaged their seaside property, lost it all in business ventures and left her a 300,000 pound debt. She is desperate to save her home, and her gardener has an idea how: grow 40 kilos of high-grade marijuana in her greenhouse and sell it to a London drug dealer.

It sounds like the plot of a screwball comedy for pot-smoking teenagers, but Saving Grace, a sly mixture of low and medium brow humour filmed on England's fetching Cornish coast, is a screwball comedy for scofflaws of all ages.

Brenda Blethyn makes the movie as Grace, a woman who gives up spraying orchids and serving friends afternoon tea to trim plants by fluorescent light at night and sound out the London underworld in a prim white summersuit by day. By turns uncertain, graceful and plucky, Blethyn's Grace keeps the film's central joke - a refined English lady at sea in the drug culture - fresh and hilarious.


Two English spinsters have some fun after mistaking marijuana for tea leaves in Saving Grace.
photo: Courtesy of Continental Films

"Are you sure it works?" she queries in one scene, taking an ingenuously bold puff at her first joint. "I don't feel anything." She takes a few more drags, and in one minute-long single shot we see laughter simmer under her cheeks until her first drug-induced guffaws boil over.

Grace is surrounded by eccentric locals who are variously drawn into her scheme: the kind-hearted, pot-growing Scottish gardener who wants to make money but keep her out of harm's way; the thirty-something doctor who ends up on TV, highball in hand, calling the illegality of marijuana an "accident of history"; the elderly policeman obsessed with finding salmon poachers but who looks the other way when Grace's greenhouse lights illuminate the night sky for miles around; and the bevy of ladies who arrive to Grace's home for tea and unwittingly participate in the funniest mass intoxication scene I have ever seen in film.

Saving Grace's other star is the setting, the fictitious village Port Liac, or the real Port Isaac, all bluish-grey bundles of stone houses, chiselled coastline and fishing boats bobbing in a tiny U-shaped harbour. The smell of saltwater and the feel of damp air practically waft off the screen.

When Grace and her gardener leave the idyllic coast for the London underworld, circumstances grow increasingly hairy. A French drug lord follows her back home, where she also must reckon with debt collectors, local police and curious neighbours.

You will find movies at the theatre or video store that deal with drugs in a more thought-provoking way, but probably not a more charming comedy about marijuana than Saving Grace.

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