IT'S A SIGN of how indelibly drugs have become a part of mainstream culture that this Sundance award-winner can use a greenhouse sheltering 20 kilos of potent weed to drive the plot of what's basically an updated Ealing Studios comedy of the '50s. Brenda Blethyn of Secrets and Lies stars as Grace, a recent widow in scenic Cornwall who's attended by her faithful gardener Matthew (Craig Ferguson of The Drew Carey Show). Her estate's in hock, and there's only one way to raise the loot: Apply her green thumb to cannabis, and quick. Problem is, that's not much of a plot, and Grace mainly supplies color—in the form of assorted village eccentrics—instead of a better developed script or characterization. (To quickly survey these types, there's the stoner doctor, the spinster sisters, the Kafka-reading barkeep, and Matthew's weaselly pal who believes in aliens.)
directed by Nigel Cole
with Brenda Blethyn, Craig Ferguson, and Valerie Edmond
opens August 4 at Guild 45th and Uptown
Amiable Matthew also has a pretty girlfriend, Nicky (Valerie Edmond), who works on a lobster boat, allowing former nature documentary director Nigel Cole to photograph even more postcard views of the shore and coastal landscape. She disapproves of Grace and Matthew's scheme, and harbors a predictable surprise for her ne'er-do-well boyfriend.
Grace is aimed squarely at the Waking Ned Devine crowd and comes pleasantly close to that mark, even as its story heads toward a strained conclusion. Like Ned also, the village is complicit in our heroes' scheme, befitting "the local tradition of complete and utter contempt for the law," we're told. Eventually, the pictorialism gives way to a rather pointless visit to London, where Blethyn is made to act the secret agent woman. (At this point, you can sense the try-anything desperation of Ferguson and his cowriter.) As in any decent caper film, however, we root for the cheerful malefactors, no matter how slight their misadventures.