LOS ANGELES — Paul Schrader’s film “Master Gardener,” which is now playing in theaters, is part of an unplanned trilogy that began in 2017 with “First Reformed” and was followed by “The Card Counter” in 2021.
Like in the first two films, “Master Gardener” follows the story of a man facing an existential crisis living a lonely life, and who hides behind his day job. In this new film, Narvel Roth (Joel Edgerton) is a horticulturist who is not only devoted to tending the grounds of a historic estate but also panders to his employer, the wealthy Norma Haverhill (Sigourney Weaver).
When Narvel, at the request of Norma, takes on her great-niece as an apprentice, chaos enters his life, and the unlocking of secrets begins.
For Schrader, his latest film’s message is one of redemption through love.
In an interview with Spectrum News, Sigourney Weaver said she had avoided playing a role like Norma Haverhill because a wealthy upper-class woman is usually written as a caricature who is very easy to dismiss. Still, she thought Schrader wrote an elegant script.
“I fell in love with Norma," she said. "I felt the trap would be to make her the villain. I do think that at some level Normal means well, but things don’t go her way, but she’s a fighter. It was a pleasure to play her."
Coming into his role as Narvel, who is a former Nazi/white supremacist, Edgerton told Spectrum News he knew quite a lot about white supremacist and right-wing organizations because, having lived in the U.S. for a few years, he had been following American politics, especially in the past five to six years under the previous White House administration.
“For my character Narvel, it’s a far more complicated situation because it is very much ingrained in his past and edged in his skin," he said. "Part of the proposition of the movie regarding forgiveness, one of the big questions is, can someone with that kind of the past be deserving of a free life if they chose to put that past behind, especially if it is wrapped up in acts of violence."
Weaver said she hopes people will enjoy the movie.
“I think gardeners will be a bit surprised by it," she said. "It is a very distinctive movie. I have never read or see anything like it."
“Paul’s film challenge people, and he hopes to rattle the cage on certain subjects,” added Edgerton.
Between Edgerton and Weaver, who had the green thumb when it comes gardening?
“I am known as the plant killer,” said Edgerton.
He noted that Weaver is the one with a green thumb, but she said, “vaguely ... light green.”
“What I love about plants is that gardeners touch plants. They handle plants," said Weaver. "Plants sort of like to be handled roughly. I am delighted to be in a movie that tries to talk about the power of a garden and how complex it is and the rebirth of a garden, and how Narvel says, how destructive you have to be to keep it going."
Click the arrow above to watch the full interview.