'Grow Your Own' follows the experiences of three refugee families through a year of pruning and harvesting in the rural idyll that is the Blacktree Road Allotments on Merseyside. As part of an innovative city council scheme, they are given plots of land to aid in overcoming the trauma of their upheaval.
Initially the newcomers are met with hostility and suspicion by the locals, but through shared experience they come to realise that they're not so different after all.
Admittedly, the plot smacks of cliché, but luckily this film avoids the pitfalls that can beset British comedy-dramas. Director Richard Laxton manages to create a film that is charming without being cloying, and which is lifted beyond the ordinary by the delicate handling of the subject matter, the consistently funny script and the strong performances from the diverse cast.
Philip Jackson plays the chairman of the allotment, 'Big John', a hard hearted ex-copper who lords his power over the plot owners and the new 'influx' of refugees. He enforces arcane bylaws in order to make sure the newcomers know their place, forcing everyone to paint their sheds regulation red and banning barbeques.
Benedict Wong gives an excellent performance as Kung Sang, a traumatised father who was rendered mute through a harrowing experience. He expresses with subtlety his recovery through cultivating his plot of land. When he spots the first sprout poking through the black plastic sheeting in his allotment, a smile breaks the once vacant expression on his face.
Counsellor Barbara (Scanlan) explains the therapeutic benefits of the gardening to Kung Sang's daughter.
"When a man's completely broken you have to put him back together slowly, bit by bit. Sometimes drugs don't work."
When one of the refugee families is deported we see how deeply this affects the locals who were once so hostile to them. In one of the films funniest scenes we see three of the stuck-in-their-ways Englishmen discuss who should be deported from Britain instead of the family. Their list includes such luminaries as Paris Hilton, Peter Andre, Charlotte Church and Justin Timberlake, despite the fact that most of them don't reside in England.
Overall, 'Grow Your Own' touches the audience with its good-natured optimism, without overdosing on sentimentality.