Monday, December 08, 2008

My Family and Other Animals

This evening I watched a Masterpiece Theatre rendition of My Family and Other Animals (2005) starring Imelda Staunton as the mother and Matthew Goode as Larry, the eldest brother.

I had no idea what I was about to see and in the end I found it quite charming. I half suspect that Wes Anderson got his hands on Gerald Durrell's book and that led him to create The Royal Tenenbaums, for that just seems like a slightly more over the top version of this family. What I didn't realize, as I set out to watch it, is that it's true. That it's based on a memoir... described in this way by an Amazon reviewer:

The book, as Mr Durrell explains in introduction, was intended to describe the glorious flora and fauna of Corfu, a Greek island where he spent some time as a child. In this goal, he has succeeded admirably, as the whole atmosphere of the island is exquisitely recreated, to an extent that even on a rainy afternoon in Sidcup, it is not difficult to be transported to a sunny morning in the Aegean watching a young Gerry discovering a nest of a trapdoor spider, or perhaps discovering something of the mating rituals of the greek tortoise.

It is in the descriptions of the family, however, where this book really comes to life. As Mr Durrell describes in the introduction, the family, as in life, once they had begun to appear, muscled their way into the rest of pages as well. From tales of the rotund, pretentious Larry (Lawrence Durrell, of the Alexandria Quartet fame), the gun-mad Leslie and the 'muslin and gauze' swathed sister, Margot, to the descriptions the long-suffering mother, the family had me laughing out loud at the most inopportune moments.

Back to me now..... Regarding the film, it seemed to be perfectly cast. It transported me into their world and made me want to pull up stakes, quickly produce four children and accumulate a bevy of animals and make a go of it on an island in Greece. I very much admired the mother, loved the family, and adored young Gerry's zest for creatures. It seemed a bit timeless to me until they began to speak of Hitler's Germany and speculated on the coming of war. I would recommend the film and now I'm eager to read the book!

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