Culture

From the Vault: 'The Cement Garden' by Ian McEwan, Starring Charlotte Gainsbourg

Andrew Robertson and Charlotte Gainsbourg in The Cement Garden/photo © 1993 Laurentic Film Productions

Whether you're a dedicated follower of the master of macabre, Ian McEwan, or just a viewer with a sympathetic soft spot for severely troubled kids, "The Cement Garden" is a must-see.

Adapted in 1993 by director Andrew Birkin from McEwan's first novel of the same name, the story follows four orphaned siblings -- Jack, Julie, Sue, and Tom -- as they cope with the recent death of their father and care for their sick mother. When the mother takes a turn for the worse she informs Jack and Julie that she will need to go away to the hospital and that they will need to keep her absence a secret in order to prevent the family from being swept up into the foster care system.

Each of the four children, ranging from age six to seventeen, tests the boundaries of their newfound autonomy in their own way; the youngest, Tom (Ned Birkin), begins to dress and identify as a girl; Sue (Alice Coulthard) begins to distance herself from the others confiding only in her diary; Jack (Andrew Robertson) slowly stops bathing or washing his body; and the oldest, Julie (Charlotte Gainsbourg) takes up with a much older man named Derek (Jochen Horst). As Jack and Julie fill in the vacant parental roles, Jack develops an incestuous crush on his older sister, which she seems to encourage. Faced with overwhelming grief and no proper supervision, the mental states of the kids begin to deteriorate while Derek becomes suspicious of the parents' truancy.

Watch the trailer below for a glimpse of this emotionally confusing and disturbingly raw classic from the mind of Andrew Birkin or pick up a copy of the book by Ian McEwan.

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