The meaning of life, so far

There’s something to be said for a lack of purpose. Sometimes, a film can be fascinating and involving even when it sends no concrete message or when the plot has no real direction. My Life So Far is such a film Directed by Hugh Hudson (Chariots of fire; Greystoke: Legend of Tarzan)–who is known for being very selective in choosing which movies to direct–My Life So Far is a charming and visually stunning movie.

Set in the Scottish Highlands in the town of Loch Fyne, the film follows the life of a young boy, Frasier (Robbie Norman) and his family up until the age of 10, hence the title of the film Based on the childhood memoirs of famous British television exec Sir Dennis Forman, the unique personalities of the Pettigrew family prove that life can be stranger than any fiction.

Colin firth plays Edward Pettigrew, Frasier’s father and eccentric inventor who finds himself attracted to the pretty young bride-to-be Heloise (Irene Jacob) of his wealthy older brother Morris (Malcolm McDowell). Edward’s innovative new ideas have him running the only European sphagnum (moss) factory on his family’s land, much to the displeasure of his brother. His quirky behavior and philosophies identify him as a dreamer and romantic, albeit one with a major flaw

Also part of the cast are Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, as Edward’s silently suffering wife, and Rosemay Harris, who puts in a solid performance as Gamma, the family’s matriarch. Mastrantonio does well with what little she is given and proves a revelation with her classically trained voice. Harris adds the right touch of sterness and caring to her portrayal of Gamma. Her love for her grandchildren in particular is quite evident.

Since My Life So Far is viewed from the point of view of a child, the film delivers a feeling of youthful innocence and fascination with the events that unfold. It invests the movie with a charm that has been attempted in other movies like Waking Ned Devine without as much success.

Frasier is a precocious young lad, who has inherited his father’s curiosity and sense of rebellion. The developing conflict with his father, due to his friendship with Heloise and his dad’s competition for attention from her, leads him to find shelter in his deceased grandfather’s study room. Here, he immerses himself in pornographic pictures, erotic literature and brandy, with humorous results.

The cinematography is superb, putting the harsh Scottish landscapes to good use and the sphagnum, which permeates the film like it permeates the lives of the characters becomes so prominent that one can almost taste it.

The plot is, however, a bit predictable (the family man falling for the new mysterious woman–not very original) but it is a fault which can be easily forgiven. Rather, it’s easy to see why director Hudson and even an actor like McDowell chose to be in this film.

The only thing that can’t be explained are some plot devices which revealed themselves only to be suddenly dropped; "The Emperor of the Air," a visiting French airplane pilot as well as a wild man which Frasier repeatedly sees on the grounds are interesting characters that go nowhere.

If you overlook this, My Life So Far remains an interesting study of the importance of family and an interesting portrait of a real Scottish family pre-Second World War.

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