Saving Grace (2000 film)

Saving Grace is a 2000 British comedy film, directed by Nigel Cole, starring Brenda Blethyn and Craig Ferguson. The screenplay was written by Ferguson and Mark Crowdy. Set in Cornwall, the film tells the story of a middle aged widow whose irresponsible husband left her in an enormous debt, forcing her to grow cannabis in her greenhouse along with her gardener Matthew to avoid losing her house. It was co-produced by Fine Line Features, Homerun Productions, Portman Entertainment, Sky Pictures, and Wave Pictures and filmed in London and the villages of Boscastle and Port Isaac in Cornwall. Distributed by 20th Century Fox in major territories, the film premiered at the 2000 Sundance Film Festival, where it won Cole the Audience Award for World Cinema.[2]

Saving Grace
Theatrical release poster
Directed byNigel Cole
Produced byMark Crowdy
Xavier Marchand
Cat Villiers
Written byMark Crowdy
Craig Ferguson
Music byMark Russell
CinematographyJohn de Borman
Edited byAlan Strachan
Distributed by20th Century Fox (UK)
Fine Line Features (USA)
Release date
  • 19 May 2000 (2000-05-19)
Running time
93 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom
Budget$10 million[1]
Box office$26,330,482[1]

Critical reaction to Saving Grace was generally positive and it received favourable commercial notice for an independent British comedy film, eventually grossing $26,330,482 worldwide, following its theatrical release in the United States.[3] The film received awards from the Norwegian International Film Festival and the Munich Film Festival, also receiving a BAFTA Award nomination for Crowdy,[2] and ALFS Award, Golden Globe and Satellite Award nominations for Blethyn and her performance.[2] Following Saving Grace's release, two television film prequels to the film were produced along with a highly successful ITV spin off series called Doc Martin, starring Martin Clunes in his role as Dr. Martin Ellingham in a name switch after appearing in the film as Bamford


After being unexpectedly widowed, respectable and reserved housewife Grace Trevethyn (Brenda Blethyn) discovers that her late husband ran up significant debts and left her facing foreclosure and numerous repossessions. Well liked around Port Isaac, the coastal fishing town she lives in, Grace is given emotional support by the town's inhabitants, particularly her loyal, pot-smoking gardener Matthew Stewart (Craig Ferguson), his girlfriend and the town's fisherwoman Nicky (Valerie Edmond), and their friend Dr Martin Bamford (Martin Clunes). Despite wanting to help Grace, none of the residents are able to find a way to get her out of her dire situation.

Eventually, Grace's financial situation reaches the point where she is unable to pay Matthew, but the gardener steadfastly insists that he will continue taking care of her property. In exchange he asks Grace to take a look at some plants he is having difficulty cultivating, as Grace's remarkable talent with horticulture is well known throughout town. Arriving that evening to examine the plants, Grace is surprised to discover a sickly-looking grove of marijuana. Despite her initial disgust at Matthew's actions, Grace nevertheless takes one of the plants back to her home, unable to leave a "sick plant" unattended. Within 24 hours she is able to not only restore the plant to health, but has it producing small buds, much to Matthew's amazement.

Grace's life is further disrupted when a property appraiser arrives at her home, informing her that it is forcibly being put up for auction. She later learns that her husband's debts were worse than she thought, totaling more than £300,000, most owed to Rampton's, a London investment firm. The next day Grace asks Matthew the approximate value of the marijuana plant she rescued; when he informs her that, "ounce-for-ounce the really good stuff's worth more than gold," she proposes a partnership. Matthew will help her grow and sell marijuana, and after accumulating enough cash to pay off her debts the rest will be split evenly. Matthew accepts, and that evening returns to Nicky, eager to share the good news. Nicky is less than pleased, convinced the plan is reckless and fearing that Matthew will be caught and arrested. Now unsure of her relationship with him, Nicky holds off on telling Matthew that she has just discovered she is pregnant.

Grace and Matthew quickly start up a large and successful hydroponic grow operation in Grace's greenhouse. Sometime after Grace meets Honey Chambers (Diana Quick) placing flowers at her husband's grave, the act confirming her long-held suspicion that her husband was having an affair, based on letters he tried to have her send to an address in London. The next day she asks Matthew to guide her in smoking pot for the first time, and thoroughly enjoys the experience. While the two are high, Matthew asks her what made her decide to grow marijuana; Grace cryptically replies with Honey's London address.

As the time to harvest the marijuana approaches Grace has a chance encounter with Nicky, whose evasion of her makes her curious. The two finally talk, and Nicky asks Grace to ensure that her boyfriend won't get arrested. Moved by Nicky's plea, Grace tells Matthew that he won't be going to London to find a buyer, and subsequently sneaks off there herself. Grace's efforts to locate a dealer prove unsuccessful, and she ultimately has to be rescued from a police station by Honey after venturing into a seedy pub. At Honey's home, Grace manages to convince the other woman to call her dealer, Vince (Bill Bailey), to try and sell the marijuana. Vince is impressed by the quality, but lacks the money necessary to buy the full 20 kilograms Grace is offering. After some pleading, Vince agrees to take the two women to someone who has enough money. Back in Port Isaac, Matthew discovers that Grace has gone to London from Dr Bamford, and follows her to Honey's house accompanied by Bamford, remembering the London address Grace told him earlier. The two arrive in time to see Vince, Honey, and Grace leave, and follow.

Vince takes Grace and Honey to a yet-to-be-opened aquatic-themed rave club where they meet with French businessman Jacques Chevalier (Tchéky Karyo). Grace impresses Chevalier by instructing him on improving his casting with a fishing rod in French, and is progressing towards a deal when Matthew and Dr Bamford arrive, nearly causing an incident when Chevalier's bodyguard China MacFarlane (Jamie Foreman) mistakes their appearance for an ambush. The situation is quickly calmed, and in a private office Chevalier and Grace negotiate a deal for the marijuana, Grace almost crying with relief when the businessman accepts. Grace, Vince, and Dr Bamford head back to Port Isaac; Chevalier secretly instructs China to take Vince and follow them to Grace's home.

Arriving back in Port Isaac to harvest the marijuana, Grace discovers that the Women's Institute is preparing to have a luncheon at her house, and that Rampton's adjuster Quentin Rhodes (Clive Merrison) is heading to the house as well to discuss the foreclosure. Grace and Matthew's friend Harvey (Tristan Sturrock) stay to harvest the marijuana while Matthew returns to town to reconcile with Nicky. At the dock, Matthew apologizes and proclaims his love to Nicky, who responds by telling Matthew that she is pregnant. The two joyously celebrate momentarily, before being informed by local barkeep Charlie (Paul Brooke) that two men have been asking about Grace; Matthew quickly identifies them as Vince and China, and returns to warn Grace while Nicky tells local Police Sergeant Alfred Mabely (Ken Campbell) that the two are actually salmon poachers, prompting him to keep an eye on the two.

At Grace's house, Grace, Matthew, Dr Bamford and Nicky all frantically attempt to dismantle the grow operation while Harvey keeps Quentin distracted in the house. Vince and China arrive at the home; when Harvey leaves to warn Grace, Vince and China slip in and confront Quentin, believing he is another buyer of the marijuana. Sergeant Mabely arrives and discovers Grace's grow operation, but rather than arresting her explains that he was well aware of her activities and decided to turn a blind eye. However, he warns her that he's called in other police officers to follow his supposed salmon poachers and leaves. Fearing their imminent discovery, Grace decides to burn the dried marijuana rather than facing possible jail time, but as she holds a lit match over the pile China arrives, holding Quentin at knifepoint and demanding Grace put the match out. Before she can it burns her fingers, and she drops it into the pile. At the same moment, a woman from the local WI arrives, surprises China, but then flees at the sight of China wielding a switchblade. China chases her, only to run into the rest of the arriving women, who beat him into submission with their handbags. The police arrive shortly thereafter, attempting to break up the riotous mob. Grace and her friends flee in the confusion while the huge marijuana pile burns inside the greenhouse.

Inside her house, Grace is surprised to find Chevalier. She confronts him over his betrayal, but he responds that he sent China to follow her not to steal from her, but to protect her. He goes on to express a budding romantic interest in her, which after some hesitation Grace accepts. Back outside, Dr Bamford is unable to resist the opportunity and opens the door to the greenhouse, releasing a huge cloud of marijuana smoke that envelops him and the rioting townspeople. The riot quickly turns into a pleasant, carefree celebration.

Several months later Port Isaac's residents watch a television special in the pub, detailing Grace's "mysterious" transition from an "unknown widow" to an overnight millionaire after the success of her marijuana-themed novel Joint Venture. The special goes on to detail Grace's marriage to Chevalier, as well as the mystery surrounding the large riot at her house in which "nobody could remember anything." After some interviews with other town residents, the special cuts to a live broadcast from the New York Book Awards, where Grace wins an award for her novel. In her acceptance speech, Grace thanks Matthew for helping her.


Top to bottom: Brenda Blethyn and Craig Ferguson star in the film as Grace Trevethyn and her gardener Matthew Stewart, respectively.
  • Brenda Blethyn as Grace Trevethyn, a newly widowed middle-aged woman who is faced with the prospect of financial ruin and turns to growing marijuana under the tutelage of her gardener in order to save her family home. Blethyn, who was Ferguson's first choice, signed on the movie two years before shooting.[4]
  • Craig Ferguson as Matthew Stewart, Grace's gardener. Ferguson created the playful character with himself in mind. "I saw him as a decent chap who happens to like a bit of marijuana," Ferguson said. "He really cares about Grace and he wants to save her."[5]
  • Martin Clunes as Dr. Martin Bamford, a friend of Matthew. Clunes' character was spun off into a pair of films focusing on how he ended up in Cornwall. Later the character was renamed Dr. Martin Ellingham and underwent a complete personality change to become the sullen misanthrope that stars in the ITV television series Doc Martin, which states in its ending credits that the character was derived from the film Saving Grace.
  • Valerie Edmond as Nicky, Matthew's frowning girlfriend. Edmond won the role of the village's fishing captain in a large open casting call.[5]
  • Tcheky Karyo as Jacques Chevalier
  • Jamie Foreman as China MacFarlane
  • Bill Bailey as Vince
  • Diana Quick as Honey Chambers
  • Tristan Sturrock as Harvey
  • Phyllida Law as Margaret Sutton
  • Linda Kerr Scott as Diana Skinner
  • Leslie Phillips as Rev. Gerald Percy
  • Paul Brooke as Charlie
  • Ken Campbell as Sgt. Alfred Mabely
  • Clive Merrison as Quentin Rhodes


According to Blethyn, Saving Grace was conceived after screenwriter Mark Crowdy had been "talking to somebody in Los Angeles and somebody mentioned apropos of nothing that really good marijuana was more valuable than gold, and he thought, oh, maybe that would make an interesting story."[6] Born and grown up in Cornwall, he was inspired to create a story that was set in the South West England county.[6] Crowdy, who penned the script along with Craig Ferguson, approached Blethyn several years into writing.[6]


Saving Grace
Soundtrack album by
Various Artists
Released15 May 2000
ProducerMark Russell
1."Introduction" (Mark Russell)1:02
2."Grace's Theme" (Mark Russell)2:42
3."Take a Picture" (Filter)5:55
4."Make Me Smile (Come Up and See Me)" (Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel)4:07
5."Spirit in the Sky" (Norman Greenbaum)3:56
6."Will You Give Me One?" (film dialogue)1:12
7."Sunshine at Last" (Koot)4:31
8."Grace in Notting Hill" (Mark Russell)2:57
9."Human (Tin Tin Out Mix)" (The Pretenders)3:52
10."Drugden" (Mark Russell)2:46
11."Might as Well Go Home" (Plenty)3:17
12."Would You Like Some Cornflakes?" (film dialogue)0:22
13."Wise Up (Car Port Mix)" (AFT)3:12
14."New B323" (film dialogue)0:41
15."Cornwall Chase" (Mark Russell)3:01
16."Accidental Angel" (Sherena Dugani)3:57
17."Witchcraft" (Robert Palmer)3:17
18."All Things Bright and Beautiful" (Mark Russell)2:51


Commercial success

The film was released on 19 May 2000 in the United Kingdom and Ireland, where it grossed £3,000,000 during its theatrical run.[7] Although it took only a tenth of simultaneously released Gladiator's box office haul, Saving Grace was considered a good showing in consideration of the film's low budget.[7]

In the United States the film opened on 4 August 2000, where it soon emerged as a small box-office surprise during the slow-seasoned summer.[7] Having originally opened at 30 screens,[7] it was eventually showing on more than 870 screens during its most successful weeks in early September 2000, when Saving Grace averaged takings of $3,351 per theatre - more than blockbusters such as X-Men and Hollow Man.[3][7] It eventually grossed £12,178,600 internationally.[3]

Critical response

The critical response of the film was positive. The review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes reported that 63% of critics gave the film a positive rating, based on 89 reviews, with an average score of 6/10. Its consensus states "the plot and basis for jokes are slight, but Saving Grace is indeed saved by some charming performances, most notably Brenda Blethyn's."[8] On Metacritic, which uses a normalized rating system, the film holds a 62/100 rating, based on reviews from 32 critics, indicating "generally favourable reviews".[9]

Jonathan Crow from Allmovie gave the film three out of five stars, calling it "wacky British comedy" with a "Waking Ned Divine (1998) meets Up in Smoke (1978)" effect.[10] Peter Travers from Rolling Stone also called the film "a crowd-pleasing comedy in the tradition of The Full Monty and Waking Ned Devine." He wrote that "you know where this movie is going every step of the way. But Blethyn’s solid-gold charm turns Saving Grace into a comic high."[11] Stephanie Zacharek, writing for, called the film "a breezy and entertaining little charmer that works because it's not rendered on too precious a scale," and commented on Blethyn's performance: "She strikes the perfect tone, and her timing is right in the pocket."[12]

Roger Ebert gave the film two stars out of four, stating that "the setup of Saving Grace is fun, and Blethyn helps by being not just a helpless innocent but a smart woman who depended too much on her husband and now quickly learns to cope."[13] He criticised the film for its "more or less routine" ending: "We're left with a promising idea for a comedy, which arrives at some laughs but never finds its destination."[13] Dana Stevens from The New York Times called the film "this summer's bait for the Anglophiles," meaning "that they're English and elderly apparently makes their antics screamingly funny to people who would turn up their noses at similar humor in a film like Scary Movie."[14] In his review for San Francisco Chronicle Mick LaSalle wrote that "with Blethyn and Ferguson heading the cast, Saving Grace is hardly a contemptible effort, just a rote treatment of a tired subject."[15]


ALFS Awards Actress of the Year Brenda Blethyn Nominated
British Academy Film Awards Outstanding Debut by a British Writer, Director or Producer Mark Crowdy Nominated
British Independent Film Awards Best British Independent Film Nigel Cole Nominated
Best Director of a British Independent Film Nigel Cole Nominated
Best Performance by an Actress in a British Independent Film Brenda Blethyn Nominated
Best Screenplay of a British Independent Film Mark Crowdy, Craig Ferguson Nominated
Empire Awards Best British Actress Brenda Blethyn Nominated
Golden Globe Award Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy Brenda Blethyn Nominated
Munich Film Festival High Hopes Award Mark Crowdy Won
Norwegian International Film Festival Audience Award Nigel Cole Won
Satellite Awards Best Actress – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy Brenda Blethyn Nominated
Sundance Film Festival World Cinema Audience Award Nigel Cole Won


After Saving Grace, two television film prequels to the film were made by BSkyB: Doc Martin and Doc Martin and the Legend of the Cloutie, in which viewers learn that Bamford, a successful obstetrician (played by Martin Clunes in each), finds that his wife has been carrying on extramarital affairs behind his back with his three best friends. After confronting her with the news, he decides to leave London and heads for Cornwall, which he remembers fondly from his youth. Shortly after he arrives, he gets involved in the mystery of the "Jellymaker" and, following the departure of the village's resident GP, decides to stay in Port Isaac and fill the gap himself.

Clunes' company tried selling a series on the same theme to ITV who liked it, but felt the character of Martin Bamford needed a stronger defining characteristic than just being a "townie" who is a little out of his depth in the country. ITV wanted the character to be more challenging, so the idea of the doctor being unusually ill-tempered was touted. Out of that idea a new series, also called Doc Martin, was born. Doc Martin was created for ITV in 2004 by Dominic Minghella; in the ITV series, the main character's surname was changed from Bamford to Ellingham, a deliberate anagram of the Minghella family name. The series became a huge success in the UK and internationally; the end titles state that the Doc Martin series' existence was "Arising from the Film Saving Grace Created by Craig Ferguson & Mark Crowdy".


  1. "Saving Grace (2000)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 23 April 2016.
  2. "Awards for Saving Grace". Retrieved 14 February 2008.
  3. "Saving Grace". Retrieved 31 January 2010.
  4. "Interview". Archived from the original on 15 November 2004. Retrieved 14 February 2008.
  5. "Production Notes". Official website. Retrieved 14 February 2008.
  6. "Interviewed by Jonathan Ross". Retrieved 27 November 2018.
  7. "Grace saves Hollywood summer". BBC News. 4 September 2000. Retrieved 13 February 2008.
  8. "Saving Grace (2000)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 14 February 2008.
  9. "Saving Grace by Fine Line Features". Metacritic. Retrieved 14 February 2008.
  10. "Saving Grace review". Allmovie. Retrieved 14 February 2008.
  11. Travers, Peter. "Saving Grace". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 27 November 2018.
  12. Zacharek, Stephanie. "Saving Grace". Retrieved 27 November 2018.
  13. Roger Ebert. "Saving Grace review". Retrieved 14 February 2008.
  14. "Saving Grace review". 4 August 2000. Retrieved 14 February 2008.
  15. LaSalle, Mick. "FILM CLIPS: Also opening this week". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 27 November 2018.
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