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Adaptation of Chekhov's "Uncle Vanya" set in rural Australia in the 1920's. Jack Dickens and his niece Sally run the family farm to support brother-in-law Alexander as a (supposedly brilliant) literary critic in London. Action begins when Alexander returns with his beautiful young wife Deborah, revealing himself as an arrogant failure and wanting to sell the farm out from under Jack. Blakemore introduces themes about Australia's separation from England, as well as expanding the pacifist and ecological philosophies espoused by the local Doctor Max Askey. Written by
Michael Blakemore's "Country Life" is loosely based on Chekhov's "Uncle Vanya". Mr. Blakemore, a distinguished theater director, and actor, takes us to his native Australia, where he sets the story circa 1919.
It's a time where Aussie soldiers are returning home from WWI. We watch as Alexander Voysey, who has been living abroad, returning with his new wife, Deborah, to the estate in the country where his daughter and brother-in-law are living. Voysey is a snob who seems out of place in the house that has seen better days. His young wife Deborah, is with him because obviously she needs a meal ticket.
Uncle Jack, has stayed behind doing all the thankless jobs, helped by his niece Sally, who is Alexander's daughter. We also see the free thinking doctor Max Askey, whose ideas clash with the conservative town folks. It seems inevitable, but Deborah and the doctor develop a passion for one another that comes to nothing, while young Sally who secretly loves the older doctor, doesn't stand a chance with him.
Ultimately, the Voyseys have had it with the place and when Alexander's plans to sell the estate to neighbors fail because Jack's protests and animosity toward his brother-in-law, who by now, we realize is a fake, decide to go west in search of greener pastures.
"Country Life" is a film where we draw parallels between its Russian model and the Aussie setting. All the elements of Chekhov are there beautifully staged and directed by Michael Blakemore. The distinguished cast acts well as an ensemble under Mr. Blakemore's direction. Googie Withers makes a good contribution as the crusty cook Hannah, who knows all the secrets of the family.
This is a different "Uncle Vanya", but worth a visit because of the excellent work of Mr. Blakemore.
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