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Film / Saving Grace

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Take the high road to a comedy that truly lights up

A 2000 British Comedy film directed by Nigel Cole based on a screenplay by Mark Crowdy and Craig Ferguson, Saving Grace stars Brenda Blethyn, Craig Ferguson, Martin Clunes and Valeria Edmond.

After her husband John's suicide, newly widowed Grace Trevethyn, an avid gardener, discovers that she has inherited his significant debt. Moreover, the banks are ready to foreclose on her beautiful and historic house; in fact, they have already begun repossessing her furniture. Unwilling to leave her charming seaside town, her employment prospects are dim (even if she had a trade, her debts are substantial). Grace is given emotional support by the town's inhabitants, particularly her loyal, pot-smoking gardener Matthew Stewart and his girlfriend, the fishwoman Nicky. Rounding out the cast of quirky townsfolk are Nicky's fellow fisherman and Grace's boarder Harvey, and the stoner Dr. Martin Bamford. Despite wanting to help Grace save her home and livelihood, none are able to find an immediate solution to Grace's plight.

Her Saving Grace comes in the form of a midnight trip to the town vicarage when Matthew, who Grace has reluctantly fired after her riding mower is repossessed, asks Grace's help reviving some plants he's been secretly growing in the vicar's backyard. Upon discovering that they're hemp plants, Grace brings them back to her greenhouse since she's aware they need more light. Her prowess as a gardener shows itself as Matthew's plants quickly yield a massive amount of product. Grace and Matthew quickly realize that they have a way to get Grace out of her financial straits, and Matthew his job back. However, the modest country widow may be in a bit over her head . . .

This plot may remind you of a more lighthearted version of a certain TV show. Not to be confused with the American Supernatural Cop Show.

Also, this film is notable in that it's where the character of Doc Martin originated.


  • Alien Among us: Harvey believes many people in show business are in fact aliens (including David Bowie). This is laughed off by everyone else.
  • Babies Ever After: Nicky and Matthew. Nicky's pregnancy is one of the main reasons Grace decides if anyone is going to take the fall for all this, it's her.
  • Befriending the Enemy: After treating her harshly at first, Grace ends up befriending Honey Chambers (the woman that her late husband cheated on her with) Honey even ends up helping Grace find a dealer in London.
  • Berserk Button: Do not appear to be threatening Grace or her property in front of Matthew.
  • Betty and Veronica: The late John Trevethyn had a loyal wife, the fair-haired Grace. He also had a mistress, the dark-haired Honey.
  • Britain Is Only London: The only parts of Britain seen in the film are Cornwall and London.
  • Cloud Cuckooland: The entire town. It's saying something when the pot-grower is the most levelheaded of the bunch. Perhaps somewhat justified in that there doesn't seem to be much for younger inhabitants of the town to do except get high and hang out at the pub.
  • Close-Knit Community: This applies to Port Isaac as it is a small seaside village where everyone knows each other and news spreads fast.
  • Contagious Laughter: When Matthew and Grace go to the beach so Grace can try pot. After they have both starting smoking Grace begins giggling and looking at Matthew, When Matthew enquires why she’s laughing Grace responds “It’s you... you’re Scottish” which causes them to both begin laughing hysterically.
  • Cool Old Lady: While calling Grace an old lady is a bit of a stretch, she is surprisingly tolerant of growing and using pot. Moreover, her irritation at realizing Matthew is growing hemp plants seems more to do with the fact that he assumed she wouldn't know what they were by sight. Her fellow garden club members definitely qualify. The charity collector who refuses Grace's donation because of her money problems gets a special mention.
  • Double Entendre:
Grace: “Matthew… will you give me one?”
Matthew: “what?”
Grace: “I want to know what it feels like… please”
Matthew: ”…”
Grace: “I mean if I’m growing it and selling I should know the effect it has”
Matthew: (Sighs with relief)
  • Driven to Suicide: The film begins with the funeral of Grace’s late husband “John Trevethyn” who committed suicide by jumping out of a plane.
  • Drugs Are Bad: The film itself is actually very neutral about pot use but it does present one of the dangers which is that marijuana can be associated with very dangerous people (which is subverted with Chevalier but played straight with his bodyguard).
  • Drugs Are Good: The film explores the question of whether the growing and use of marijuana should be illegal by showing characters that are pot users who aren’t inherently bad or immoral people.
    “I saw him [Matthew] as a decent chap who happens to like a bit of marijuana” - Craig Ferguson
  • Establishing Character Moment: Grace is introduced to us in her greenhouse, painstakingly dyeing an orchid to wear to her husband's funeral showing. Her prowess as a gardener ends up driving the plot.
    • Matthew is introduced smoking a joint while digging John’s Grave, showing that he uses marijuana and his association with tending land/gardening
    • Nicky is introduced getting changed out of her fisherman work clothes at the harbor next to her boat.
  • Evil Debt Collector: The bank intends to foreclose on Grace’s home and is already in the process of taking her possessions because her late husband built up an enormous debt without her knowledge.
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin: The film’s story is about Grace’s friends helping to save Grace from losing her home to the bank.
    • It can also be interpreted that the title is referring to Grace’s own skills as a gardener are her saving grace.
  • Fish out of Water: While an adept Gardener and grower, Grace is hilariously out of her depth when she attempts dealing in London.
  • Friendship Moment: Harvey has one when Matthew has an angry rant at the pub, Harvey calmly listens and lets Matthew rant until he feels better
  • Grand Romantic Gesture: After returning from London Matthew runs to the harbour where Nicky is to Reconcile with her, he calls across the water to tell her that he loves her and that he wants to be responsible. She happily returns his feelings and tells him she’s pregnant. He then joyously runs into the water and she jumps off the boat and they embrace and he carries her to shore.
  • Grey-and-Gray Morality: The film presents characters that smoke and grow pot (Which is a crime in Britain) as normal and nice people, exploring the question of whether the law is wrong, while also showing the injustice of the bank being legally allowed to take Grace’s home and possessions because her late husband was swamped in debt without her knowledge or involvement.
    “I must say it does seem strange that alcohol is legal and Marijuana isn’t” - Dr. Bamford
  • Good All Along: This applies to Chevalier, who despite being a drug-dealer and appearing dangerous at first, is revealed to actually be a decent guy (even having romantic feelings towards Grace). He also explains the reason he sent his Bodyguard to follow Grace back to her home was for her protection.
  • Happily Ever After: Grace becomes a wildly successful author, gets out of her financial difficulties and remarries happily, Matthew and Nicky are expecting their first baby and nobody in the village suffers any fallout from Grace and Matthew’s short-lived drug cartel.
  • Hard-Work Montage: When Grace and Matthew are setting up the plants in the Greenhouse (while "Make Me Smile (Come Up and See Me)" by British rock band ‘Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel’ is playing to remind you that this is a british film)
  • Hate Sink: John Trevethyn qualifies, Grace and the village soon discover after his funeral that John was not only unfaithful to Grace but because he committed suicide he left her with his massive debt and he even made all their possessions and their home collateral.
  • Hated by All: John Trevethyn after his death, when the entire town realises to what extent he screwed over his wife (Cheating on her and leaving her in extreme debt). Ultimately Lampshaded by Grace herself.
    “Bastard... still owes me for a lobster” - Harvey
  • Hidden Depths: Grace's aptitude for growing pot. Dr. Bamford is also surprisingly good at his job, as is Sgt. Alfred Mabely who appeared to be completely oblivious to what was happing in Grace’s Greenhouse when in fact it’s revealed that he was turning a blind eye because of Grace’s financial troubles and personal problems.
  • Hope Spot: Grace and Matthew's bountiful harvest. Then they realize that they have to somehow distribute it . . .
  • Hypocritical Heartwarming: Nicky decides to start avoiding and stop speaking to Matthew (rather than break up with him, despite saying she doesn’t want to be in a relationship with someone irresponsible) because she disapproves of his and Grace’s plan to grow marijuana and blames Matthew for the idea, but she also tells Grace not to let Matthew get arrested as she doesn’t want that to happen.
  • Impoverished Patrician: Grace from the beginning of the film. Her (former) socioeconomic status is never stated outright, but she and John were clearly rather well off, living in a large and historic house with valuable furniture and extensive gardens. It is also clear that she was never expected to work outside the home, given her response of "what could I possibly do" to Matthew when he suggests she get a job (although she seems to be lamenting her lack of a marketable skill set rather than claiming she's too "good" to work).
  • Intergenerational Friendship: Grace is middle-aged (Brenda Blethyn was 54 in 2000) and Matthew her gardener is notably younger (Craig Ferguson was 37 in 2000).
  • Intoxication Ensues: The two old ladies who run the village store are told by Harvey that a marijuana plant is an exotic tea. They steal a few leaves and brew them up so they can taste this new tea. They proceed to get stoned, much to the bewilderment of their customers. note 
  • Like a Son to Me: The relationship between Grace and Matthew has overtones of this. She's willing to take the rap for any legal fallout that the duo might face after she realizes Nicky is pregnant.
  • Meaningful Name: "Honey Chambers," the late John Trevethyn's mistress.
  • Monochrome Casting: With the exception of some extras and bit players we see when Grace goes to London.
  • Mood Whiplash: Goes from potential tragedy about an impoverished widow to a feel-good stoner comedy.
  • More Popular Spin-Off: The ‘Doc Martin’ Television Series is a Spin-off of the Dr. Martin Bamford character (both are played by Martin Clunes and filmed in Port Isaac).
  • My Secret Pregnancy: Nicky is informed by Dr. Bamford that she is pregnant and decides to surprise Matthew with the good news, he has his own good news (which is his and Grace's plan) and they get into an argument and Nicky changes her mind before telling him, She doesn’t tell anyone (Although Grace figures it out) until near the end when she and Matthew reconcile.
  • New-Age Retro Hippie: Honey’s pot-dealer Vince, Matthew has shades of this.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: Sgt. Alfred Mabely, rather than simply obsessed with tracking down salmon poachers, has known all along what's going on in Grace's greenhouse (as well as at the vicarage), but has decided to turn a blind eye to it due to Grace's string of tragedies and money problems.
  • Posthumous Character: John Trevethyn, with the film opening with his funeral, never appears however his actions cause the events of the film when Grace is forced to find a way to pay off the bank when she learns that he built up a significant debt.
  • Quirky Town: Port Isaac is a small Cornish seaside village with a lot of quirky and colorful characters, however there is also a strong sense of community.
  • Rage Breaking Point: The usually relaxed and easygoing Matthew has an angry rant while at the pub when he’s had enough with Nicky not speaking to him and Grace refusing to allow him to find a dealer in London, he feels a lot better once he’s got it off his chest.
  • Running Gag: “Salmon Poachers” and Harvey believing in aliens.
  • Scenery Porn: Plenty of gorgeous shots of the Cornish Coast, particularly when Grace ponders her options. (The village scenes were filmed in the picturesque fishing village Port Isaac in North Cornwall).
  • Silent Treatment: Nicky does this to Matthew, she starts going out onto the boat early and stops speaking to him after arguing with him about his and Grace’s plan to grow Pot in order to solve their financial problems.
  • Stoner Flick: The best description of this film would be “Feel-Good British Stoner Comedy” which can be enjoyed by both stoners and non-stoners alike.
  • The Dragon: China, Chevalier’s Bodyguard. (Although Chevalier is actually a revealed to be a decent character, unlike his Bodgyuard).
  • The Mistress: Honey Chambers, who ultimately provides Grace with a connection to the drug market.
  • The Stoner: Matthew, Dr. Bamford and Vince. (However they are also among the most levelheaded characters in the film).
  • Those Two Guys: The shop-owners/garden club ladies who get high off of Grace's "tea." Also China and Vince.
  • Took a Level in Badass: In addition to facing down a dangerous drug cartel, Grace becomes a great deal more outspoken and assertive over the course of the film, particularly regarding her late husband.
  • Trauma Conga Line: First, Grace's unfaithful husband jumps out of an airplane. Then, she finds out she's drowning in debt. Then, she gets involved in the drug trade . . .