“My Life So Far” might be called a coming-of-age story if it weren’t for the adult members who try to keep information from the curious. The entire story is told through the eyes of ten-year-old Fraser Pettigrew (Robert Norman) who lived with his family on a sprawling estate in Argyle, Scotland. It is a true story and is based on a memoir by Denis Forman entitled “Son of Adam.” Denis is well-known in the British Isles as the former director of the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden. Apparently, Denis was not shy about revealing the personal experiences of his family members.
Colin Firth - Wikimedia
Fraser started out by saying that his mother probably had so many babies because she wanted to fill up their huge house. Life in Kiloran was idyllic in the late 1920’s which is the setting for this pleasant tale. Fraser’s father, Edward Pettigrew (Colin Firth), married very well when he joined his wife’s family. Moira (Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio) had aspirations to be an opera singer, and would probably have been very successful at it, but she opted to marry Edward instead and to raise a large family. Moira’s mother (Rosemary Harris), whom the children call “Gamma” was a widow and the owner of the huge living quarters that the Pettigrew family shared with her. Gamma had indicated to Edward that she planned to leave the estate to him when she passed.
Irene Jacob Wikimedia
Uncle Morris Has Issues With Edward
However her son, Morris MacIntosh (Malcolm McDowell), was indignant at the prospect since he believed that his brother-in-law Edward was not using the estate to its best advantage. Edward had chosen to grow sphagnum moss on their vast lands which he converted into soaps and colognes as well as a dressing for wounds. Uncle Morris felt that the moss factory on the grounds was not as profitable as other ventures that might be examined. Morris had made himself a millionaire and felt that his ideas were more lucrative. Edward was also an amateur inventor, although not all of his inventions had come to fruition. He loved Beethoven and had a special interest in aviation, having built an airborne model which unfortunately had crashed to the ground. He was always a pious man and a defender of traditional values. For years, Edward had given a sermon at every Sunday service which the family attended faithfully. His life in Kiloran provided him with all he needed or wanted out of life.
Uncle Morris is Engaged
Uncle Morris announced to the family that he had a new fiancée and would bring her around to introduce her. She was quite young and of French descent, and was an accomplished musician on the cello. There were many servants at Kiloran who took excellent care of the family, and visitors were always welcome to stay.
Malcolm McDowell Wikimedia
All Visitors are Welcome
One of the visitors during the time of Fraser’s tales about his family was a pilot named Gabriel (Techky Karyo), who was nicknamed “The Emperor of the Air.” He landed his plane on the grounds at Kiloran for the express purpose of seeing his current love interest, Fraser’s older sister Elspeth (Kelly MacDonald), who appeared to return his affection. Such goings-on were acceptable at Kiloran, and the children reveled in the excitement that was always being generated.
Uncle Morris Introduces Heloise
Uncle Morris brought his fiancée Heloise (Irene Jacob) to Kiloran for a visit. She was very young, probably thirty years his junior, but was very sweet and quite happy to become Morris’ wife. When Edward, who had always been completely devoted to his wife Moira, saw the beautiful Heloise, he was totally infatuated with her. When he brought her out to the barn to show and explain the moss that was stored there, he kissed her. She was not happy with his behavior and quickly made her exit. He continued to pursue her to no avail.
Fraser was also taken with Heloise, and she introduced him to jazz music, which Edward believed was “the sound of the devil speaking,” as opposed to Beethoven’s music, which he regarded as “the sound of God talking in his sleep.” Heloise taught Fraser to play the piece “On the Sunny Side of the Street” on the piano, and gave him a record of it to play.
Fraser Makes a Gaffe
Fraser had come upon his deceased grandfather’s books in the attic, many of which had pictures of nude women, and others had explanations of lurid terminology which Fraser had never been aware of. At dinner that evening, Fraser offered a solution to the problem of reduced income on the estate. He suggested that the women in the household should engage in prostitution to earn money for the family. Of course, he did not understand the full meaning of his suggestion, and the guests were shocked at first, and then laughed heartily at the ludicrous picture.
The Curling Competition
Since Gamma’s husband died, she had always hosted the MacIntosh Curling Competition on the grounds to honor her husband. On the day of the competition, Gamma accidentally fell in a pond of water, and had to take to her bed. Within two weeks, she developed pneumonia and died.
Uncle Morris and Edward Come to Blows
It became known to everyone that Gamma had willed the estate to Edward. Uncle Morris and he had a brawl that day, the culmination of all of their pent-up animosity over the years. Edward even intimated that, in addition to not having the estate, Morris might not have his new bride totally either. Morris grabbed Heloise and they left the building.
Moira then confronted Edward before the entire household, saying that she knew all along that he was infatuated with Heloise. They had estranged relations for several weeks. There was talk that Edward might leave. Fraser and his brothers did not know what to make of the situation.
Kelly MacDonald Wikimedia
Edward finally told Moira how sorry he was, and they became reconciled, to everyone’s relief. One Sunday morning, they were all ready for church and could not find Fraser. Edward finally peeked in the library where ten-year-old Fraser was sitting, listening to Louis Armstrong’s version of “On the Sunny Side of the Street,” which Heloise had given to him. He had a cigar in one hand, and a wine glass filled with milk in the other. Edward decided to leave Fraser be, smiled and closed the door behind him.
I have learned that any film starring Colin Firth is worth watching. “My Life So Far” is no exception. I enjoyed it so much, and could imagine myself living on that beautiful estate with all that it had to offer.