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The calibre of the director/production team on this movie is reason enough to go see it - with movies like “Cal”, “Local Hero”, “The Killing Fields”, and “Chariots of Fire” under their collective belts, you know what kind of quality you're in for. But as serious as that list sounds, “My Life So Far” is quite a lighthearted tale, told through the eyes of an innocent - 10 year old Fraser Pettigrew (Robert Norman). Set in the misty Scottish Highlands in the late 1930's, the film is based on the childhood memoirs of British TV executive Sir Dennis Foreman, and tells the story of a well-to-do family of Scottish eccentrics.
What British period drama would be complete without Colin Firth, who plays Fraser’s‘ madcap inventor father Edward. Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio is Moira, wife to Edward and mother to the brood of six children. Her brother Morris Macintosh (Malcolm McDowell) disapproves of the scatty Edward and what he's doing with his mothers’ estate, which includes harvesting sphagnum moss for medicinal purposes. Overseeing this clan is the matriarchal and domineering Gamma (Rosemary Harris) to whom all of this ultimately belongs.
Viewed through the wide and imaginative eyes of Fraser, we see the trials and tribulations of this family unfold as the rumblings of World War II approach. Fraser’s‘ respect and admiration for his father dissipates when Morris’ beautiful French fiancee Heloise (Irene Jacob) shatters the family‘s peace, as both Fraser and the puritanical Edward fall in love with her. Fraser’s’ bumbling attempts to deal with sex and sexuality are handled with wit and sensitivity.
Shot beautifully among the damp lush green countryside of Argyll, the family and their community is irresistible, as is the estate and house in which they live. Whimsical contraptions and inventions populate the screen and highlight the childhood wonder with which we’re colouring our vision. As a coming-of-age film, it is delightful and funny. As a period piece, it comes replete with enough twists and turns to keep any stuffiness at bay. Though Colin Firth and Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio are the stars of the piece, it‘s relative newcomers Robert Norman, Irene Jacob and Kelly MacDonald as Fraser’s’ sister Elspeth who steal the show, with Malcolm MacDowell underpinning it beautifully.
Up and coming playwright Simon Donald has adapted the original book “Son of Adam” with just the right voice to retell this story to a 90's audience.