Theatrically, "My Life So Far" is no masterpiece, though it does offer such requisite touches as tweedy eccentrics, picturesque backdrops and perfect period wardrobe. Along with that, there are tea, scones and the occasional sherry proffered by plump, rosy-cheeked maids obviously grateful to be of service.
At least, that's how Sir Denis Forman remembers growing up in the Scottish Highlands in the 1930s. Forman's childhood memoir, "Son of Adam," provides the source material for this often confusing and largely unremarkable coming-of-age story.
Fraser Pettigrew (newcomer Robert Norman), a wide-eyed redhead wise beyond his 10 years, narrates the story and portrays the autobiographer's alter ego as a boy. The film begins as Fraser, still a toddler, decides against a nap, crawls out onto a ledge and begins to circumnavigate the Pettigrews' idyllic old manor on Loch Fyne.
To the relief of his long-suffering mother, Moira (Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio), his stern Gamma (Rosemary Harris) and his five siblings, Fraser is rescued by his madcap father, Edward (Colin Firth). In the ensuing years, the Pettigrews gambol on the green, fly-fish in the loch and enjoy other merriments, many of which involve one of Edward's wacky inventions or crackpot schemes.
All that changes with the arrival of Fraser's bullheaded Uncle Morris (Malcolm McDowell), the sole heir to Gamma's estate. Morris, a millionaire in his own right, disapproves of Edward's ineffectual attempts to capitalize on the estate's resources. He scoffs at the sphagnum moss factory that is Edward's pride and joy.
The two vie for the favor of Heloise (Irene Jacob), Morris's alluring young fiancee, and later go mano a mano in a curling match. And Fraser understands that the family's relations will never be the same again.
"My Life So Far," which reunites director Hugh Hudson with producer David Puttnam for the first time since 1981's "Chariots of Fire," is powered by a strong cast, but it is a slow-moving vehicle. The filmmakers were aiming for something along the lines of "My Life as a Dog" or "Hope and Glory," but wound up with the story of moss.
My Life So Far (92 minutes, at the Inner Circle) is rated PG-13 for skinny-dipping children.