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After this summer, their lives will never be the same!

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Character Actor
Uncle Morris Macintosh Malcolm McDowell
Edward Colin Firth
Gamma Rosemary Harris
Heloise Irène Jacob 
Moira Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio
Fraser Robert Norman
Gabriel Chenoux Tchéky Karyo
Elspeth Kelly Macdonald
Rollo Roddy McDonald
Finlay Daniel Baird
Brenda Jennifer Fergie
Meg Kirsten Smith
Andrew Burns Sean Scanlan
Uncle Crawford John Bett
Aunt Eunice Anne Lacey
Debs Haig  Olivia Preston
Ruth Haig Sarah Turner
Jim Skelly Moray Hunter
Tom Skelly Jimmy Logan
Jim Menries Brendan Gleeson
Mrs. Henderson Eileen McCallum
Sissie Carmen Pierquaccini
Aggie Elaine M. Ellis
Sarah Julie Wilson Nimmo
Marnie Elspeth MacNaughton
Reverend Finlayson Freddie Jones
Donald Burns Stewart Forrest
Cassie Burns Caroline Spencer
Sir David Drummond Ralph Riach
Lillian Andrea Hart
Hector Terry Neason
Caroline Jenni Keenan-Green
Frances Jenny Foulds
The Tramp Clive Russell
Doctor Gebbie Paul Young
Euphemia Gebbie Pamela Kelly
Miner Eric Barlow
Young Miner Gordon McCorkell
Miner's Son Neil McMenemy
Baby Fraser Lorenzo Boni
Baby Brenda Robyn Cochrane
Young Rollo Ross Anderson
Young Debs Haig Joanne Turner 
Young Elspeth Nicole O'Neill
Young Meg Victoria Campbell
Old Gardener George Knight

Directed by Hugh Hudson
Written by Simon Donald + Denis Forman


VHS - NTSC / DVD - Miramax Films 1999
DVD contains no extras.


9/99 - Reel.com
9/99 - The O'Reilly Factor
5/12/00 by the BBC



Malcolm close up from box
Video Box - Front

Video Box - Back


"I love that film, of course it died the death. Another one that died the death. Hugh Hudson, I thought he was on splendid form, it was a wonderful cast - Colin firth, who I like very much, is a very good actor, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, Rosemary Harris was wonderful. A great cast. Irene Jacob who played my exotic French Fiancée. That was fun, it was great. We shot it in Scotland, but unfortunately it was the time before I took I up golf. I was staring at these idiots going around St. Andrews going, "What the hell do you want to waste time for?" Now of course now I'd give anything to play it." - Malcolm in NY 5/22/02

My Summary

     The movie opens in 1920 Scotland. Three year old Fraser Pettigrew narrates and he is supposed to be napping. Since it is in the middle of the day and everyone else is outside playing, he doesn't want to sleep. He decides to climb out of his window and crawl around the roof of the mansion where he lives. This causes a big panic and everyone moves to rescue him from inevitable harm. After much adventure his father Edward  is finally able to get to him by making dog noises - that is how they communicate, by speaking "dog". Fraser has two brothers, one older, one younger and an older sister Elspeth. They all live in this huge estate, Kiloran, with their parents, grandmother, who owns it; and servants. His mother Moira was going to be an opera singer until she got married.
     The movie then jumps ahead seven years and stays there for the rest of the film. Fraser is now 10 and thinks the world of his father. His father loves Beethoven, hates Jazz and is an inventor. His main invention is coming up for uses for spagnum moss. It saves lives, it is a perfume, soap, a skin care product, etc. They live what they consider is a normal life until Uncle Morris Macintosh shows up. He is Moira's sister and is the rich uncle that everybody loves, except for Edward. He makes it known that when his mother dies, Edward and family are going to be kicked out. Even though Morris spends most of they traveling the continent doing business he feels that the family estate is basically his, since he is the oldest.
     Early the next morning the three boys are going swimming in the lake naked, only wrapped in towels while they watch the father swim. Fraser doesn't want to go in until he runs into a hairy man that scares him and then they all run back into the water.
     Then there is great excitement when a pilot, Gabriel Chenoux, has engine trouble with his plane and lands in their yard. He is smitten with Fraser's sister while all Fraser wants to do is ride in the plane. Edward won't let him, but goes up for a ride himself. This gives him an idea to run an aqueduct  from the house to the factory and begins dynamiting the place. This is when Morris shows up and puts a halt to everything. Ever since his father has died, he holds sway over his mother and tries to convince him that Edward is a fool. Edward gives up the idea in favor of an underground furnace built of asbestos.
     Morris tells the kids how he met a younger woman, Heloise, while in France and has come back to tell his mother. He tells them the story and all the servants in the house are eager to hear the gossip and Fraser is only too glad to fill them in. Heloise is a cello player and gives a performance that impresses the family shortly after arrival. She takes an instant liking to Fraser as Edward takes a liking to her. Edward wants to show her around and gets upset when Fraser takes over. Edward goes to the factory and catches Fraser and her rolling around in the moss throwing hay on each other and she kisses him and confesses she is only 24. She tells him how she used to catch crawfish when she was his age. Fraser doesn't know what they are and his father calls him ignorant and sends him away. He gives her a moss gift pack and hopes she'll fall for him. He throws moss on her and asks where his kiss is, she is reluctant, but gives him a small one anyway. He then tries to take advantage of her and she screams. He gets rough, but doesn't do much more. Fraser hears screaming as he runs away.
     This event changes his life. Morris has gotten his mother's blessing on the wedding so Heloise will now be Aunt Heloise. Fraser feels his father keeps him ignorant by never teaching him anything, never telling him reasons why things are. He decides to sneak into the attic where he has always been afraid to go because his father told him that was where the devil lived. There he finds his grandfathers' secret library and decides to read them all so he will be smart. He even sees the hairy man outside on the roof. That day while the men go out on a fox hunt, Moira and Heloise do a duet. Fraser finds Heloise special nickels that Morris gave him in the moss afterwards and keep them under his pillow.
     He continues reading all the books he can and even finds some pornographic pictures in the books which excite him. He also dreams of Heloise. During a big family dinner that night to congratulate the happy couple Heloise challenges Edward on his religious beliefs in front of the family.  He talks about Christian love and she challenges him on temptation and hypocrisy. She doesn't come out and say he attacked her though, but Moira figures it out. The minister is there and getting drunk, he talks about needing to raise money and Moira suggests a concert by her and Heloise and everyone thinks how great it is. Fraser then decides to impress them with what he has learned in the books. He suggests the women become prostitutes and charge high prices to raise money and how everyone could have their way with them. Everyone is shocked at first and then bursts into laughter at him. His father sends him out, but then the grandmother breaks down, she has had four helpings of desert not knowing there is sherry in there. The term prostitute sets of a memory of her husband and she gets hysterical while Fraser is forgotten.
     Fraser then tosses all his father's Beethoven sculptures into the lake that night. He falls in and catches pneumonia and is confined to his bed. His father has invented a rubber pantsuit/self propelled boat and goes out looking for his sculptures. Instead they find the body of the hairy man, a loner who suffered shell shock in WWI. Fraser misses Uncle Morris' wedding and is only shown it on film on that his father has taken. We see in the film that his mother isn't happy.
     The next day Edward has finally gotten his underground furnace built, but there is a problem. The asbestos has cracked and the steam is coming up through the lawn. When Fraser gets up to look, his mother finds Heloise's necklace under the pillow and her worst fears about her husband are confirmed when Fraser tells her where he got it. The next day he is wandering around sick and walks in on his grandmother and thinks she has died, but she hasn't. He tells her is worried that when she dies Uncle Morris will throw them out on the street.
     He gets better and it is decided there will be a big skulling tournament held at the house. Everyone in town is there to compete and Morris is betting against the coal miners. Edward decides he wants to bet on the miners and Morris tells him he is a millionaire and he couldn't bet him. Edward tells him he will bet the house, if Morris bets his wife. Each tells the other they aren't theirs to bet, but the bet is on. One of the servants screws up and throws the stone all the way across the lanes scratching it up, putting the games on hold.
     That night there is ice skating and the Emperor pilot returns for the party. Fraser tells his grandmother that the servants should be allowed to use grandfathers special skulling stones - the best there are. Morris wants nothing to do with that since he will lose. The grandmother is serving food on the ice when suddenly it breaks and she falls through. She is pulled out in time, but now it is only a matter of time before she will die.
     Three weeks later she is gone and after the funeral everyone is surprised to learn that Morris is given nothing and Edward and his family are given the estate. Edward is taunting Morris that he owns everything and he is out. Edward then tells him he has won everything including their bet and wants him to pay. Morris knocks him town and beats on him, then leaves. Moira then yells at him, telling Edward she knew what he did to Heloise and he must choose between her, whom he can't have anyway and his family.
     Eventually he relents and the family gets back to normal and everyone is happy again. Edward does catch Fraser listening to a jazz record and looking an nude pictures, but doesn't ever say anything to him about it. In the postscript we learn that they stayed together until they died, though they did have to sell the house during World War II. Fraser went off to the war and was badly wounded in Italy in 1944. He then went back to become a founder of the BBC and he still loves jazz.

My Review

     When I first heard about this film a couple of years ago it was going to be called "World of Moss". I couldn't imagine what that could possibly mean. While there is some moss in the film, it doesn't warrant being in the title, so it was a good change.
     This film is noteworthy because it marks Malcolm's return to English filmmaking. Even though the film is backed by Disney and filmed in Scotland, it was his first movie over there in nearly 20 years.
      This is not a great film or a bad film. It is not particularly poignant or touching. It is just a good film, with no scenes that make you cringe. The family is big, so the story is a bit overcrowded at times and other times you realize that the brothers and other family members have been cut out of the film.
     Colin Firth has gained popularity in other bigger roles, but his character isn't as important here. No reason was given why he went after Heloise - was is lust, jealousy, possessiveness? He was impressed with her playing of the cello, but she loved jazz, which he despised, this should've cancelled that out. I think an explanation would've helped. The duet scene also seemed unnecessary, except to prove that M.E. can sing, but she has done more singing in other films.
     It did seem unrealistic that the family gives their blessing for Morris to marry a woman more than half his age. Also the whole family seems quite taken by her which seems a little much. It is also strange how Fraser worships his father one minute and hates him the next.  The scene where the father goes swimming with his naked sons following him also doesn't make any sense.
     The subplot with the hairy man wasn't necessary at all and didn't add to the story. The last scene which didn't make sense was the arrival of two of Morris' women friends. They didn't do anything  except become the butt of a lesbian joke by Fraser - unaware he was being improper. Their whole part and this sequence was unnecessary.
     The setting and the countryside was beautiful. All of the location work is really great. It is certainly a nice film to look at with all the green Scottish country. All of the actors did well and one really feels like they were all Scottish.
     Malcolm had a cool role as the rich uncle everyone likes. He hinted at being a bastard, but never really was - suggesting he had a good heart. His role wasn't the biggest in the film, but it was up in the top five. It is always good when his character doesn't die and he even has a fight scene. This is the first time I can remember him fighting in a picture for years. His screen time splits between being the fun uncle when he is with the kids and being the powerful player when he is with the adults. He does a great job and really steals the scenes he is in. One great scene is when Edward is accusing him of parading his child bride around and is all in his face. Morris just kind of eyes him like, "I really enjoy getting under you skin." But soon company comes and he doesn't even say a word to him and mocks him by using his words against him when introducing his wife to be.
     It is a film that can be enjoyed by the whole family, just watch out for the stronger sexual humor. The story needs to be tighter and focus more on the main character - Fraser. All the extra little subplots distract from the main story. It starts out like a father and son picture, but heads of somewhere else to a coming-of-age-picture. You won't be disappointed by the film, but it won't rise up to the top of your favorite film list any time soon.

Rating 6.5/10

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