The Healing Garden is a powerful movie that does a remarkable job in showing in its story the true possibility of healing and restoration in relationships, as well as from painful life moments.
Eddie Nichols is a retired teacher and former chaplain, and he is seen in the beginning of the movie preparing for a move. He takes down a photo of his wife from the wall and we soon learn she has recently died. A group of young adults show up unexpectedly to help him move and he has no idea who sent them. He is short with the movers but they help him move anyway.
Set in Colorado, Eddie moves into unfamiliar territory, a trailer park home he has rented, and he obviously misses his wife. But a sign of hope he saw while traveling offers the possibility of better days ahead. The sign says: “In despair? Jesus is your hope.”
He receives a knock at the door before he’s up in the morning, and he shouts, “Hold your horses!” A man at the door calls him, “Bro!” and Nichols immediately tells him, “Call me sir!” The man at the door had lived in the home until his grandmother rented it out. He hands Nichols a baseball bat. He calls it a “blessing stick for people who try to get into your home!” The park is obviously not the most secure in the world.
In a neat symbolic moment in the film, Nichols discovers a nativity scene at his trailer, but it is missing Jesus. Could it be he is as well? He eventually meets a neighbor’s girl, named (appropriately enough) Hope. He begins to tell her about the Bible but says the stories “aren’t true.” However, we know he was a chaplain and is bitter about his broken relationship with his only daughter, who is now an adult—not to mention the loss of his wife. The movie shows us how, bit by bit, as he tells Hope stories from God’s word, he begins to heal and to believe again.
He meets various people in the neighborhood including Hope’s father, Ramos, a former marine who has one metal leg, and her mother, Sarah, who becomes upset with Nichols for telling Hope about creation, and the “dirt people.” She is, of course, referring to his description of God making Adam from the dust of the ground in the book of Genesis.
When Nichols begins planting a garden not far from his trailer, the neighbors become intrigued. And, not far into the process, he begins praying over the seeds and putting in prayer requests for various people in the neighborhood. It truly becomes a healing garden. His wife, Olivia, had been a horticulturist and he learned gardening from her. And SPOILER ALERT: Amazingly, Nichols sees God begin to use these “seeds” of prayer as Ramos and Sarah, in a rocky relationship, begin to finally get along. Nichols encourages Ramos to help Sarah clean up the house, and she is amazed when he heads to the car and tells her he is going to the store for some cleaner.
Sarah softens towards Nichols, seeing the good he is doing in Ramos’ life and in her daughter’s life too. And as Nichols continues to heal from the painful moments of his life, he reconnects with his daughter. She had thought Nichols and her mother gave up too quickly on her mother’s treatment for cancer, but Nichols helps her to understand he honored his wife’s wish to let go and to go on to her heavenly reward. Nichols also learns that it was his daughter, Jeanie, who sent the young adults to his old home to help him move.
In another wonderful moment in the film, Hope brings the missing Jesus figure to Nichols, who completes his nativity set. Jesus is now back in Nichols’ life. There are other remarkable moments in the film which we won’t spoil but the acting and story in the movie is terrific. Danny Mann is excellent in his role as Nichols, as are the other actors in their various roles.
There are times, especially early on, when there are tense moments in the story and the themes of strife and grief are realistically portrayed. However, we are awarding the movie our Dove seal for All Ages.
The Dove Take:
This is a remarkable movie which features believable characters and stories and the idea of loving one’s neighbor as yourself.