My Life So Far [1999]

If pretty pictures and sweet intentions were enough to generate a classic family film, My Life So Far would rival How Green Was My Valley and George Cukor's Little Women. But those movies have strength and an acute sense of loss along with the sweetness and light, while--despite a death or two and the teasing prospect of adultery--My Life So Far doesn't really engage anything that would disrupt its rosy childhood memoir. First-person narrator Fraser Pettigrew (Robert Norman) is age 10 in 1920, a moment when it seems that the charmed life of Kiloran, the rambling Scottish estate he shares with several generations of his relentlessly quaint family, will go on forever. Even a stray shellshock casualty from the Great War--a sub-Dickensian bogeyman who haunts the grounds--is treated as a picturesque bit of local color. The family is what counts: would-be inventor Colin Firth, eccentric paterfamilias and sphagnum moss farmer; his wife Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, who traded an opera career for multiple maternity; crusty uncle Malcolm McDowell, who hopes to inherit Kiloran from matriarch Rosemary Harris and evict everybody; and Irène Jacob, the beauteous young Frenchwoman to whom the uncle is engaged and over whom everyone else goes gaga. Not to mention a gaggle of precocious siblings, colorful servants, and oddball interlopers. This is all very slight, but amiable--sort of a Miramax dry run for The Cider House Rules without the darkness or the novelistic vision. The lakes, skies, and knobby hills around Argyll, Scotland, are unexceptionably gorgeous. --Richard T. Jameson

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