06 May 2008

The Shell Seekers (starring Angela Lansbury)

I have loved the books by Rosamunde Pilcher, the best known of which is probably 'The Shell Seekers', for many years. And while, at first, I resisted the idea of seeing the movie adaptations of these beautiful books, I did eventually decide that it would be a good idea to acquire the DVDs, if only so that my husband - who was unlikely to read a saga novel of this kind - could enjoy the stories too.

'The Shell Seekers', made in 1989, was well reviewed so I put it on my wishlist and was given it for Christmas 2005. We watched it first in March 2006, where I was surprised and a bit disappointed that it did not really follow the plot of the book very well, despite being a well-produced and generally enjoyable book.

Visiting relatives asked to see it recently, so we sat down to watch it again. Knowing that it was different from the book, in advance, helped considerably. I was surprised to find myself enjoying it thoroughly this time, despite it being only two years since I first saw it.

There is an excellent cast, brilliantly led by Angela Lansbury as the 63-year-old Penelope. The plot - both of the book and the film - revolves around her life, past and present, introducing her adult children. The characters, at least, were close to those of the book, and I thought they were well cast. I particularly liked Patricia Hodge as Olivia, the daughter closest to Penelope and most like her.

The scenery was attractive, the production was good, and - if one is not familiar with the book - it's a lovely film for all the family. Not, it must be said, for those who want fast action or thrills, but warm and thought-provoking for anyone interested in the dynamics of family relationships.

For those who are familiar with the 'Shell Seekers' book, however, I would warn that the ending of the film is quite dramatically different, and there are several changed incidents throughout. It's not really a problem from the point of view of the film standing alone – it worked well, and the film did capture much of the essence of the book – but I found it oddly disturbing, waiting for events that did not happen, or were changed.

Nevertheless, on balance, I felt that this DVD was well worth watching. Unfortunately it does not seem to be available new any more, possibly because a different version was produced in 2006.

Review copyright Sue's DVD Reviews

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