The Hanging Garden

Director: Thom Fitzgerald
Screenwriters: Thom Fitzgerald

Institute History

  • 1998 Sundance Film Festival


Pitting tradition against change, layering the past into the present, Halifax director Thom Fitzgerald explores the dangers and delights of a contemporary rural Nova Scotia family in his breathtakingly magical first feature. Part gripping slice-of-life drama, part haunting surrealist fantasy, and entirely rooted in a lush floral vocabulary, The Hanging Garden unearths deep family secrets with explosive effects. Fitzgerald takes us headlong on a spiraling journey through lusty comedy, painful confrontation, and the elation of reconciliation.

Our guide is Sweet William (Chris Leavins), a slim, trim, twenty-five-year-old gay man who returns home after a bitter absence of ten years to celebrate his sister’s wedding in the family garden. Everything is pretty much as he left it. His drunken, abusive father Mac (Peter MacNeill) is still tending the flower garden and not his family, while his mother Iris (Seana McKenna) suffers in guilt-ridden silence. His grandmother Grace (Joan Orenstein) is even more senile and obsessively religious, and his chain-smoking, foul-mouthed sister Rosemary (Kerry Fox) is as warm and boisterous as ever. Only Sweet William has changed, but ten years ago, he hanged himself from a tree in the garden, and that frozen image remains so real to his family that it still swings there, haunting their lives, waiting to be cut free. Stunning photography, exquisite pacing, a star-studded score, and an incomparable ensemble cast make The Hanging Garden an intensely heady and sensual pleasure which reveals that not only can we go home again, but we must if our hearts are ever to heal.

Thom Fitzgerald, Director
Thom Fitzgerald was raised in New York, studied at Cooper Union, then moved to Halifax to study at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design. He has worked in film, video, and live performance and has been a key figure in the Halifax art scene. He has worked extensively with the Charlatan Theatre Collective. The Hanging Garden is his first feature film.

— David McIntosh, Toronto Film Festival

Screening Details

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