Starring: Joel Edgerton, Sigourney Weaver, Quintessa Swindell, and Esai Morales
Director: Paul Schrader
Paul Schrader rounds out his trilogy of broken men sitting at desks with single lamps and a glass of whiskey in what’s likely to be one of his more underrated films. Yet another story of self-redemption, Master Gardener isn’t perfect; it is, however, an improvement over Schrader’s The Card Counter, and the gardens it explores are immaculately rendered. Joel Edgerton and Quintessa Swindell both give excellent performances, but it’s Sigourney Weaver who steals the show any time she’s on screen. That said, this brand of Schrader is subject to diminishing returns, and although I enjoyed it, it’s no First Reformed.
I have a weird relationship with Paul Schrader’s directorial efforts. While I loved First Reformed, I found The Card Counter to be much weaker; I find myself smack dab in the middle with Master Gardener. Schrader clearly has a knack for moral complexities in his characters, but, powerful performances aside, the film doesn’t always feel engaging enough. That said, there is a silent beauty hidden under the surface that caught me by surprise given the film’s cold exterior, and that made it a worthwhile experience even if I’ll probably never watch it again.
This film was reviewed by Jacob as part of Bitesize Breakdown's coverage of the 2022 New York Film Festival.