It’s exciting to see Shyamalan on such confident footing once more, all these years later.
There is a character named William who appears in "The Hanging Garden'' at three different ages: as an 8-year-old who is terrified of his father, as a fat 15-year-old and as a 25-year-old, now thin, who has returned for his sister's wedding. The peculiar thing is that the characters sometimes appear on the screen at the same time, and the dead body of the 15-year-old hangs from a tree during many of the scenes.
Well, why not? It may be magic realism, but isn't it also the simple truth? Don't the ghosts of our former selves attend family events right along with our current manifestations? Don't parents still sometimes relate to us as if we were children, don't siblings still carry old resentments, aren't old friends still stuck on who we used to be? And don't we sometimes resurrect old personas and dust them off for a return engagement? Aren't all of those selves stored away inside somewhere? The movie opens on a wedding day. Rosemary (Kerry Fox, from "An Angel at My Table"), who has already started drinking, struggles with her wedding dress and vows she won't show herself until her brother arrives. Her brother Sweet William (Chris Leavins) does eventually arrive, late, and is about 150 pounds too light to fit into the tux his mother has rented for him. He was fat when he left home. Now he is thin, and gay. We learn that his first homosexual experience was with Fletcher (Joe S. Keller), the very person Rosemary is planning to marry.
The family also includes Whiskey Mac (Peter MacNeill), the alcoholic patriarch, and Iris (Seana McKenna), the mother, who seems like a rock of stability. It's no accident that all the family members are named for flowers; Whiskey Mac poured all of his love and care into his garden, while brutalizing his family. His treatment of his overweight, gay son led the boy to hang himself in one version of reality, and to run away in another, so that when the 25-year-old returns home the body of the 15-year-old is still hanging in the garden.
But I am not capturing the tone of the movie, which is not as macabre and gloomy as this makes it sound, but filled with eccentricity. The family members, who live in Canada's Maritime provinces, have survived by becoming defiantly individual. This is going to be one of those weddings where the guests look on in amazement.