" I saw something nasty in the woodshed".......
"There have ALWAYS been Starkadders at Cold Comfort Farm".....these two lines are repeated as a sort of litany throughout the film.
Very subtle British comedy. You will quickly realize in the opening seen that you are in for a very quirky brand of comedy as the delicious, lovely Joanna Lumley playing the character, Mary Smiling, piddles over her hobby with her butler. Her hobby is a collection of lady's corsets, bras, undergarments on partial mannikins. Mary Smiling, her character, of course, is always smiling. The names are very much tongue in cheek as well.
"Highly sexed young men living on farms are always named Seth or Ruben"..... [Flora Poste referring to cousins she has not yet met on Cold Comfort Farm.]
The film opens with about 50 seconds of black and white footage setting the history of the little girl who saw something nasty in the woodshed. That little girl is now elderly and uses whatever she saw in the woodshed as a lever and club over everyone's lives who lives with her on Cold Comfort Farm. Great Aunt Ada's (who saw something nasty in the woodshed when she was a little girl) worst fear is that her children and grandchildren will leave her alone on the farm.
Kate Beckinsale plays the role of Flora Poste, known throughout the film as "Robert Poste's child". Flora is recently orphaned in 1930's London when both her mother and father die at the same time. No relatives in London care to take her in as the estate only left her 100 pounds per year for her allowance. So, she stays with a friend in London while she writes letters to all of her relatives throughout Great Britain seeking the appropriate fit for the next stage of her life. Flora sorts through the responses from the relatives and chooses to go to Cold Comfort Farm with her cousins, the Starkadders. Fecundity rules as Flora leaves behind the societal refinement she enjoyed in the upper crust in London. Flora has ambitions to be a writer and believes she must experience "real life" (on a farm) in order to write about it. However, she has an ulterior motive. She possesses enough self awareness at a relatively young age to know something about herself. She likes to "tidy things up" that are messy. Thus, the untidy Cold Comfort Farm and the people who inhabit it seem an apropos challenge for her.
DO YOU KNOW OR HAVE EXPERIENCE WITH ANY DYSFUNCTIONAL FAMILIES? Then, you will love this film.
What I liked about the film is the trans-formative nature of Flora Poste, Beckinsale's character. Without being too much of a busybody she inserts herself into her unknown relatives' lives on Cold Comfort Farm and literally transforms the farm and all the people on it. It is a sheer joy to watch it unfold.