Based on a true story Dare To Be Wild centres on landscape designer Mary Reynolds (Greenwell, Shameless) and her dreams of scooping the Gold Medal at the prestigious Chelsea Flower Show. With a talent for introducing the charms of the wild and Celtic mysticism into her designs, she impresses celebrity landscaper Charlotte (Marzano) – so much so she takes Mary's plains and pitches them as her own. Not to be perturbed, Mary signs up for, and is granted, a place in the show, much to the chagrin of uptight posh English type Nigel Hogg (Macqueen). The only thing is she needs a sponsor to stump up the 250K needed to transport materials and assemble her plans. Maybe hot young thing Christy (Hughes) can help…
It's not immediately apparent what Dare To Be Wild is up to – the opening five minutes chronicles Mary's childhood and something about druids and fairies and her dad (Don Wycherley) – but then it becomes clear what it's after: first time writer-director Vivienne De Courcy hopes this light romantic-comedy-drama will pull in a Richard Curtis audience. Taken on that Dare To Be Wild might entertain but it's got its problems.
Maybe it's the niche business of landscape design (similar problems were the undoing of Alan Rickman's pretty-looking and solidly performed but ultimately dull A Little Chaos) and maybe it's the script's determination to hit those structural beats dead on but Dare To Be Wild doesn't engage like it should. If the script was as brave as (we assume) the character's ideas are then it might have fared better. The scenes are short, which gives it a brisk pace, but it's so regimented the story doesn't breathe and the big moments aren't earned.
None of this is Emma Greenwell's fault. While Mary can be implausibly naïve and innocent at times – A hot guy fancies me. Gosh! – Greenwell's charm gets one over some hurdles. She's backed up by Marzano who, however underused, is a perfectly horrible villain. And every now and then De Courcy reminds herself of the beauty of natural landscapes Mary continually bangs on about, and when she does (like in the Ethiopian sequence) the director showcases a keen eye for the pretty. Kudos too for the inclusion of Rollerskate Skinny at a dinner party.