Bella Brown (Jessica Brown Findlay) was not born, she was found, like Moses, in a basket in the bulrushes (or nearest equivalent) and adopted by a Catholic orphanage where she grew up to infuriate the nuns who were looking after her with her exacting ways and mannerisms. As she became an adult, these turned into complexes and eventually OCD, which means before even thinking about leaving the house in the morning she must go through various petty rituals and only then may she continue on to her job at the local library, where he obsessiveness comes in useful for filing and finding the books. But she has a grumpy next door neighbour, Alfie (Tom Wilkinson)...
He may prove to be her undoing, but as you would have the measure of This Beautiful Fantastic within the first half minute or so, you would be able to accurately anticipate the character's eventual thawing into a twinkly old gentleman who had been made to see the good in the world by his neighbour's embracing of life in all its possibilities. This should also serve as a stern warning: should you have any aversion to the state of twee that existed in some entertainment, say a Sunday night early evening television comedy for instance, then you may find a violent reaction to this film was the only one you would not only suffer, but judge to be entirely reasonable in that anger.
This was not a deep experience unless you found home truths in greetings cards, but for all the potential for the dedicated cynic to take against it, it wasn't particularly offensive either. It was not peopled with outrageous caricatures aimed straight at pushing the audience's buttons, so the heroine was not cloying in her quirks in spite of her ambition to pen children's books, and the baddies were not really all that bad; it was the sort of fiction that wanted you to come away from it convinced all the ills of the world needed was a hug to make them feel better about themselves, which was an admirable sentiment. Or at least, it was an admirable sentiment to hold onto in the face of whatever atrocity was broadcast on the news today.
Whether it was credible was another matter (would the Second World War have been averted if Adolf Hitler had been offered a big cuddle?), but on the interpersonal level depicted here it was just about enough to get away with. One day, it all happens at once for Bella, as she meets Alfie's home help, young widower and father of two Vernon (Andrew Scott proving yes, he could play a nice man), who offers to become her home help instead after the old geezer pisses him off for the final time and he decides to leave his service. Bella needs a bit of assistance herself - her meals have something to be desired, and Vernon is an excellent cook - and for a change she is able to get to work on time and not annoy her boss (Anna Chancellor). However, soon after that, trouble looms as she is threatened with eviction thanks to the sorry state of her garden.
She is no gardener, but what do you know? Alfie is an expert horticulturalist and in exchange for meals he guides her around the best methods of prettifying the jungle she has allowed to grow out there. It was all very convenient, not least when it came to the romance (of course it was a romance too, apparent inspiration Amelie was, after all) which had inventor Billy (Jeremy Irvine) visit the library every day and flout its no eating rule for some reason; if this was supposed to be cute, it wasn't, it was irritating especially if you have any respect for books. Anyway, that aside, he's nice enough therefore obvious boyfriend material for Bella, so there had to be a spanner thrown in the works to prolong the plot to almost (but not quite) an hour and a half, though when you heard the resolution it may strain your credulity to breaking point. And yet, for a film so determined to be nice, it was difficult to really be too aghast at its studied eccentricities, it meant well and you imagine sensitive folks needed movies too. Music by Anne Nikitin (sounding exactly as you would expect).