Master Gardener (2022, Paul Schrader)

Diminishing returns on the “lonely man with violent past pushed to the edge” series… dialogue scenes are off, stilted, and it’s all dialogue scenes. Voiceover cover-up indicates something has gone wrong between page and screen. Looks really nice though.

Sigourney asks her ex-nazi gardener/lover Joel to take on her troubled grandniece Maya (comic superhero Quintessa Swindell), but he gets more invested than anyone intended, helping her detox and dealing with her violent garden-wrecking ex. Abandoned by Sigourney and by Parole Officer Gabriel, at least they’ve got each other.

Vikram Murthi in The Nation:

Master Gardener’s final scene … a soon-to-wed Narvel and Maya dancing on the porch of a cabin they’re rebuilding together as Schrader’s camera slowly pulls back, lending them both privacy and dignity. Schrader has explicitly swiped the ending of Bresson’s Pickpocket on at least three occasions … But the ending of Master Gardener almost scrubs the Pickpocket ending of its tragic, unfulfilled dimension: Narvel and Maya’s silent expression of love doesn’t need to bypass any barriers because the two have already torn them down. A director whose career trudges on against all odds, Schrader finally lands somewhere near contentment, reveling in the warmth of a second chance.