Watch Cold Comfort Farm
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Cold Comfort Farm is a 1995 British comedy-drama film directed by John Schlesinger and starring a talented ensemble including Eileen Atkins, Kate Beckinsale, Sheila Burrell, Rufus Sewell, Stephen Fry and Ian McKellen. The film is based on a 1932 satirical novel of the same name by Stella Gibbons, and it tells the story of a young, independent and free-spirited woman named Flora Poste (Kate Beckinsale) who, after the death of her parents, must leave her privileged life in London to live with her distant relatives, the eccentric Starkadders, on their rundown and dilapidated farm in Sussex. The Starkadders are an odd and severe group of people, with each of them manifesting a peculiar quirk- from patriarch Amos (Ian McKellen), a fire-and-brimstone preacher, to Meriam (Maria Miles), a half-witted girl who communicates with animals, to Aunt Ada Doom (Sheila Burrell), the family matriarch who refuses to leave her room and keeps everyone else in line with her gloomy pronouncements of "something nasty in the woodshed." But Flora is determined to apply her modern mindset and education to the outdated customs and notions of the Starkadders, believing in her ability to reorganize their beliefs and turn their lives around. She charms them with her bright personality, tries to teach them good hygiene and nutrition, and encourages them to look beyond the shackles of tradition and social conventions, while still keeping the best from their past. As she navigates the traditions and eccentricities of the family and the local community, Flora also finds herself entangled in various romantic entanglements, with the rugged and handsome farmhand Seth (Rufus Sewell) and the snobbish and self-assured Mr. Mybug (Stephen Fry), a pretentious writer who wants to use their story for his books. The film is a playful and witty satire of the English rural melodrama, drawing inspiration from literary classics such as Jane Austen and Thomas Hardy but infusing them with a 20th-century feminist sensibility and a delightfully irreverent and ironic tone. The cinematography and production design capture the picturesque but paradoxical landscape of the English countryside, with its austere beauty, decay, and contradictions. The performances are uniformly outstanding, with Kate Beckinsale stealing the show as the plucky and resourceful Flora, who is both a product of her time and ahead of it. Eileen Atkins is a perfect match for the role of the matriarch Aunt Ada Doom, with her piercing gaze and sardonic voice conveying a lifetime of bitterness and secrets. Sheila Burrell imbues her character with a powerful presence, despite only appearing occasionally, and the rest of the cast, including Rufus Sewell, Ian McKellen, and Stephen Fry, are pitch-perfect in their roles. Overall, Cold Comfort Farm is a delightful and whimsical film, that manages to be both reverential and subversive of the genre it portrays, while also being a tender and heartfelt story about the power of human connection and the importance of embracing change and progress, even in the face of tradition and nostalgia.