Beautiful music fills the theater, and a view of a lovely castle, the light all brown and gold, then a children's room, curtains drawn for nap time, or "rest time, " a Gamma calls it. Fraser hates rest time. He pulls his bed over to the window, parts the curtains, climbs out the window and starts out on his housetop journey - the journey that brings his father, resplendent in tennis white and cream bounding up the stairs, long legs moving fast. And ends with Dad barking like a dog, and little son barking back until he is safely swept up into Edward's arms and hoisted high on the roof for all to see.
It is a wonderful beginning to a family saga. It manages to tell us almost everything about the kind of child Fraser is, and the kind of father he has -- Almost everything, but not all.
In the course of the film we see that Edward Pettigrew is many things, an inventor of hair brained gadgets, an exuberant dad to his children, a lover to his wife, a trial to his mother-in-law, a fool to his brother-in-law, a kind employer to the house staff. But most of all, he is a man with the heart of a child. There are times when the child Fraser is more mature than Edward the dad.
I never felt the film was fragmented, because the central theme, Edward's lust for Heloise, held the movie together, and gave it shape. And he DID lust for her, did something to her in the sphagnum moss storage room, something unwanted, and aggressive enough to take her choker from her neck, leave them both with moss clinging to their hair -- something to cause us to hear one wild scream from Heliose.
Edward's jealousy of Fraser's friendship with the beautiful Frenchwoman is a child's jealousy. Edward tries to push Fraser to the side; he vies with his son for Heloise's attention, and by his boorish, childlike actions, he opens himself to her public ridicule of him at table.
Colin Firth has one of his best roles here. He allows us to see a man with so many warring degrees of character - kindness and cruelty, foolishness and intelligence. And the man is funny too. There is a scene where he attempts to tell the facts of life to Fraser that is priceless. A perfect place for the stammer.
For the Firth fans of us, he is rugged of face and the liquid brown eyes have never been more expressive. There is one particular scene where you could drown in them! He is trim of body, walks the walk all over the heather, wears clothes to die for. There is one suit that he wore for hunting that I loved - dark brown with knickers, and with the most fetching brown slouch hat. And that Scottish accent! Divine!
Best of all, is a scene in pajamas, alone by the fire, the light playing on his face, his head back, a bit of suprasternal notch showing. Sighs were heard all up and down our row.
Yes, I liked it. Everyone was excellent in it. I particularly loved Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio's sweet expressive face, and her singing voice is lovely. Robert Burns never sounded more haunting or romantic. McDowell was hard edged, not a likeable man, but one that loved his mother very much -- and his young wife. You could especially see that when Edward taunts him in the climatic scene. Young Fraser is a natural, and I thought his discoveries in his grandfather's attic, and his obsession with "sins of the flesh," very real for a bright ten year old in 1920 who was never told any of the things he really wanted to know. The Louie Armstrong/jazz/cigar/brandy snifter scene shown in the trailer becomes much sweeter and sadder when you see the film. There is an extra ingredient that makes it so.
I wanted to be a guest in that house where smokes billows from the lawn, the master rides around in tiny inflatable boats, or tank like vehicles, where lovers waltz in their nightclothes in the rain. Where eccentricity is treated with forbearance -- until Eve enters the scene and changes the family forever.
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