The People Garden grows on you

T.O. director Nadia Litz's indie drama set in a Japanese forest will pull you in

THE PEOPLE IN THE GARDEN (Nadia Litz). Some subtitles. 82 minutes. Opens Friday (May 6). See movie times. Rating: NNN

Opening for a limited run at the TIFF Bell Lightbox Tuesday (May 10), The People Garden is the third film in 12 months about people venturing into that creepy forest at the foot of Japan’s Mt. Fuji.

But where Gus Van Sant’s The Sea Of Trees was a melodrama and Jason Zada’s The Forest a (terrible) horror movie, The People Garden is a stranger, more elliptical creation. Writer/director Nadia Litz has made a mood piece about dislocation. 

Sweetpea (Dree Hemingway) has come to Japan to break up with her rock-star boyfriend, Jamie (François Arnaud), who’s shooting a video in the aforementioned forest. But he’s gone missing, leaving Sweetpea in the company of the stone-faced Mak (Jai Tatsuto West), who’s clearly hiding a secret or two.

Not everything lands. Some of the industry stuff around Jamie’s video is clunky, and performances by James Le Gros and Pamela Anderson don’t quite synch with the movie’s tone. 

But when Litz puts us alone in that forest with Sweetpea and her fears, The People Garden has a dark, compelling pull. 

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