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 The World of Film in Australia - on the Internet Updated Tuesday, July 22, 2014 - Edition No 907 

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MY LIFE SO FAR

SYNOPSIS:
Fraser (Robert Norman) belongs to an exquisitely eccentric Scottish family living on an idyllic estate under the strict control of Gamma (grandma) Macintosh (Rosemary Harris). Though the child-and-animal estate is kept sane by both Gamma and Fraser's mother Moira (Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio), it is spiritually headed by Fraser's madcap father Edward (Colin Firth), who is an inventor, a misunderstood genius and the founder of the only moss factory on the entire European continent. Life changes when Uncle Morris (Malcolm McDowell) brings his young bride-to-be Heloise (Irene Jacob) to the estate. Besides, Fraser is growing up and notices more.

"Childhood memories are often piercingly vivid; their importance in our lives paramount. It's not really surprising that these are the years that often remain the Shangri-La in our minds. Such are the memoirs of Sir Denis Forman, beautifully translated to the screen by Simon Donald. Although I have never been to Scotland, I almost feel as though my spirit has made the trip: so detailed are the characters, the lifestyle and the beauty of the landscape. Poignant and charming, My Life So Far is a rich encounter with delightful characters who live tucked away in an idyllic world behind rolling hills and icy streams. We see the world from the impressionable eyes of the irrepressible Fraser, who displays a vibrant curiosity that leads him through the corridors of childhood, opening doors along the way. Robert Norman who plays the 10 year old, captures the very essence of that enchanting moment when our eyes are wide open. We easily hook into the way of life, and delight in meeting all the eccentric characters. This is a family that becomes real to us we smile, ache and groan from our encounter. The joy is in the detail how can you forget Edward's romantic father (Colin Firth is wonderful), who teaches his sons to cast a fishing line to the ta da da daaah of Beethoven's 5th? Or the heart-felt conversations by the servants in the kitchen, as they pluck chickens. Or the roll in the moss with the lovely French temptress Heloise (Irene Jacob is lovely), who innocently captures hearts. Performances are faultless, with Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio the epitome of serenity, Rosemary Harris, delightful as Gamma and Malcolm McDowell terrific as colourful Uncle Morris. The cinematography is breathtaking, the music glorious, the experience satisfying. Uplifting and moving, this picturesque world of My Life So Far, is one you will delight in discovering."
Louise Keller

"Wonderful to look at, I agree, splendid to listen to and sometimes entertaining, My Life So Far seems to suffer from being book-bound - unlike Louise's, my enjoyment was sporadic. What a reader invents as the words unfold in the head takes time and is strung together with nuanced atmosphere; strict narrative and dramatic access are less imperative in a storytelling sense. In film, the sequence of events creates expectations and these are not really satisfied. While there is a sense of place and time in this biopic of a pipsqueak (Fraser the central character and voice of the film is but 10), there isn't enough connection with some of the central characters. A feeling of detachment pervades the film. This may be due in part to the film's shifts in point of view: the voice-over is Fraser's, but we are also privy to scenes where he is absent, giving us the pov of the chronicler behind a one way mirror, so to speak. Colin Firth and Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio's characters as the boy's parents, Edward and Moira, are somehow wrong for this and Edward's flirting with the French lass, Heloise, strikes an odd note; the Edwrad character is just not complete enough to be real. Rosemary Harris, Irene Jacob, Tcheky Karyo, and Malcolm McDowell are engaging, but at the margin of the story. The setting is gorgeous, but this is not enough to create the dynamic human atmosphere the film is aiming for. It's as if the characters and the main events have to be included but there isn't time to make them tangible. This is a frequent problem with novel adaptations; too much material to shrink-wrap into 93 minutes."
Andrew L. Urban

"Stories about growing up invariably fall into one of two categories - "gritty reality" or 'rose-coloured glasses'. My Life So Far definitely falls into the latter. The story is told as a lavish period piece, and it's aided immeasurably by beautiful Scottish countryside and a precise attention to detail in recreating the 1920s. However, the tale left me rather cold. I never really came to care for the 10 year old protagonist or his eccentric family. Essentially, this is a story of a family in crisis, brought about by the father's obsession with his brother-in-law's beautiful young wife. But the script brings nothing very new to what is a fairly familiar scenario. Indeed, I wonder if it would all really have been as genteel as it's depicted in this film. It's all terribly restrained, to the extent the emotion seems drained from the characters. Also, the construction is a little odd, with characters being introduced then essentially forgotten. The acting is hard to fault; although some of the accents seemed a little forced to me. Colin Firth is appealing as the flawed, idiosyncratic Edward. Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio doesn't have much to do as his long-suffering wife; while Irene Jacob is suitably radiant as Heloise. Young Robert Norman puts in a solid turn as Fraser and it was great to see Rosemary Harris in a commanding performance as Gamma. My Life So Far is a lovely looking and quite charming film in many ways; but I would have preferred some genuine feeling over yet more sweeping shots of the landscape."
David Edwards



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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 1
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 2

SOFCOM MOVIE TIMES

MY LIFE SO FAR
(UK)

CAST: Colin Firth, Rosemary Harris, Irene Jacob, Tcheky Karyo, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, Malcolm McDowell

DIRECTOR: Hugh Hudson

PRODUCER: David Puttnam, Steve Norris

SCRIPT: Simon Donald (based on Sir Denis Forman's book Son of Adam)

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Bernard Lutic

EDITOR: Scott Thomas

MUSIC: Howard Blake

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Andy Harris

RUNNING TIME: 93 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE DATE: November 11, 1999







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