My Life So Far (1999) - Plot Summary Poster


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  • Memoir of the lives of a family growing up on a post World War I British estate headed up by a strong disciplinarian, her daughter, her inventor husband, their ten year old son and his older sister. Through the household comes a number of suitors hoping to impress the young woman, including an aviator. When the elder woman's son shows up at the estate with his French fiancé, everything gets thrown into turmoil. The young boy takes a sudden interest in her sexual allure and his father is disturbed by his own non-Victorian feelings.


The synopsis below may give away important plot points.


  • "My Life So Far" is the story of how the Pettigrew family, living in their family estate Kiloran House in Scotland, deals with changes brought by the end of WWI, told through the point of view of one of the Pettigrew children, Fraser (Robert Norman). The family is headed by the maternal grandmother MacIntosh (Rosemary Harris), affectionately known as "Gamma", who's decisions are to be obeyed without question. Gamma's son Morris (Malcolm McDowell) left home to build a career for himself and succeed as a well-to-do businessman; while her younger daughter Moira (Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio) followed the traditional route - she fell in love with Edward Pettigrew (Colin Firth), gave up a promising chance at becoming an opera singer, settled down at her family estate and raised a big family. Edward is a typical country gentry of his time - owns a minor business (turning sphagnum moss into medical dressings), a pious man and defender of traditional values (gives a speech at every Sunday service), loves and listens only to Beethoven, and has a passion for inventions and mechanical improvements all over the estate. All of which are laughed at by Morris, who lives in London but comes back to visit often, as he is competing with Edward to inherit the estate after Gamma passes away; the two could barely conceal their loathing for each other.

    Edward does not appreciate and resists waves of new changes in the world, but the harder he tries, the more things fall apart. Morris and his beautiful and charming French fiancee Heloise (Irène Jacob) introduce jazz to the children ("the sound of devil speaking" according to Edward). An emergency landing brought the eldest daughter Elspeth's (Kelly Macdonald) first suitor - a French show pilot Gabriel Chenoux (Tchéky Karyo). Fraser discovers grandfather MacIntosh's book collection in the attic, as an act of rebellion against Edward, took interest in reading them all. Without guidance, he misunderstood the definition of "prostitution", believing it to be a business term, suggests to all guests at Morris and Heloise's engagement party that Moira, Heloise and Gamma should go into prostitution to enhance the moss business. Worst of all, Edward finds himself drawn to Heloise, and having a brief affair with her prior to the wedding.

    While passing out food during a curling game held in her husband's honor, Gamma fell into the lake. Although she was pulled up immediately, she died of pneumonia soon after. Gamma left the estate to Edward, leading to the ultimate altercation between Edward and Morris at her wake. Edward boasts about that Morris has lost more than the estate to him, causing Moira to finally confront him and tell him that she is aware of his affair with Heloise all along.

    It took months before Edward's efforts finally won back Moira, and the family settles back to its old routine. On a Sunday morning, all Pettigrews are heading toward the church, except Fraser. Edward finds him relaxing in a chaise lounge in the library, a cognac glass filled with milk in one hand, a lit cigar in the other, swaying his head and body to Louis Armstrong's "On the Sunny Side of the Street" (a secret gift from Heloise). Instead of thrown into a fit of rage, he smiles and closes the door, leaving Fraser to enjoy himself.

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