Dir: Hugh Hudson. UK. 1999. 93mins.
Prod Co: Enigma, Hugh Hudson Films. Int'l sales: Miramax International. Prods: David Puttnam, Steve Norris. Exec prods: Bob Weinstein, Harvey Weinstein, Paul Webster. Scr: Simon Donald from the autobiography Son Of Adam by Sir Denis Forman. DoP: Bernard Lutic. Prod des: Andy Harris. Ed: Scott Thomas. Mus: Howard Blake. Main cast: Colin Firth, Rosemary Harris, Irene Jacob, Tcheky Karyo, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, Malcolm McDowell.
The long delayed reunion of Chariots Of Fire producer David Puttnam and director Hugh Hudson is a gentle, affectionate portrait of a privileged Scottish childhood in the years between the two World Wars. Set for a UK release in May, some three years after it was shot, it is too modest and unassuming a venture to make much of an impression in a keenly competitive marketplace. Its handsome scenery and nostalgic tone should give it a far greater chance in ancillary markets.
Adapted from the 1990 autobiography of pioneering British television executive Denis Forman, the film bears few obvious scars of its allegedly fractious post-production history. Told through the eyes of ten year-old Fraser Pettigrew (Robbie Norman), the film is structured around the ebb and flow of family life on a vast country estate owned by the boy's grandmother and run by his eccentric father Edward (Firth).
Isolated from the concerns of the wider world, the estate is an adventure playground in which the curious lad gains a wide-ranging education in everything from fly-fishing to the temptations of the flesh and the hypocrisies of the adult mind. Family gatherings, exotic guests, the annual curling championship and other rituals provide snapshots of a lost age. What drama the film possesses comes in the form of Irene Jacob's Heloise, Fraser's new aunt and an object of forbidden desire for his smitten father.
Although there is potential here for a childhood memoir in the manner of My Life As A Dog or Hope And Glory, My Life So Far has too genteel and fragmentary a narrative to merit a mention in the same breath. Always pleasant, it lacks the extremes of light and dark that distinguish a great drama from a merely decent one.