I can’t believe we’ve never done a full review of Cold Comfort Farm (1995), especially since it is high up there on our list of favorite movies. So, today we are going to be rectifying this oversight and devoting this post to all the fabulous costumes by Amy Roberts in this classic comedy about a wacky family and one girl’s determination to sort all of their problems out.
Based on the 1932 novel by Stella Gibbons, the film is set in the interwar years and focuses on the exploits of Flora Poste, a young woman with aspirations of becoming the next Jane Austen, who decides to visit her distant relatives, the eccentric Starkadders, in hopes of finding some useful material for her novel. Her life with the Starkadders on their sprawling and rundown estate begins to turn towards trying to fix their lives for the better, accidentally sorting herself out in the process.
Flora, played by Kate Beckinsale, is very much a spiritual descendent of Jane Austen’s Emma (coincidentally, Beckinsale would play Emma the following year), but vastly more likable. Though she is young and relatively inexperienced, she feels London holds no more use for her after the deaths of her parents and decides to strike out to learn more about her distant relations in Sussex, theorizing that the change of scenery will help inspire her to write a novel to rival Austen’s Persuasion. There she finds a family living on a once grand estate called Cold Comfort Farm that has decayed into squalor after the matriarch, her aunt Ada Doom (Sheila Burrell), “saw something nasty in the woodshed” as a child which somehow or another was so horrifying that she kept rigid control over the rest of her family to prevent anyone else from ever having to endure what she did. The result is that the family is isolated and shunned by their neighbors, and in quite a desperate state by the time Flora shows up.
The cast includes Ian McKellan as Amos Starkadder, a man with deep religious convictions; Miriam Margoyles, as Mrs. Beetle, who is possibly a cousin, or some other vaguely related person who has a crush on Reuben Starkadder (Ivan Kaye); Rufus Sewell as Seth Starkadder, the oversexed cousin who spends far more time having sex than doing actual work; the fabulous Eileen Atkins, as Judith Starkadder, Amos’ wife and Seth’s mother, who is uncomfortably obsessed with her son; and Maria Miles as the appropriately named Elfine Starkadder, a wisp of a girl who spends her days dancing in the woods and catches the eye of the son of the neighboring gentleman. The cast is rounded out with bookended parts played by Joanna Lumley as Flora’s mentor in London, Mrs. Mary Smiling, and Stephen Fry as Mybug, a gentleman acquaintance of Flora’s who fancies himself both an intellectual titan and Flora’s suitor, and is really neither.
Have you seen Cold Comfort Farm? Share your thoughts with us in the comments!