On her deathbed an old Dutch woman reflects on her life in rural Holland.
This delightful barnyard, barnstormer of a chick flick comes to UK cinemas already laden with a Best Foreign Film Oscar and trailing the sweet waft of critical succcess in its wake. It's a heady family saga of love, sex and intrigue, with a feminist undertow, set in rural Holland - an everyday tale of country folk that's more Dynasty in wellies than The Archers.
Covering 50 years, the story unfolds in episodic fashion with Antonia (Van Ammelrooy) and her female line all contributing a verse or two, alternating between wild comedy and heart-tugging tragedy.
All things begin and end with Antonia on her deathbed looking back on her mammoth innings. First stop is 1945, when she returns home to take over the family farm with her daughter (Dotterman) in tow. In this conservative, male-dominated backwater, the pair attract hostility for their land girls' attitude and a wilful refusal to play along with the hypocritical morals of the time. Pretty quickly the farm becomes a commune for all manner of local retards, recluses and rejects. Over the years hearts are healed, love found, children begat and even the occasional marriage forged, all in charming defiance of the church, the sanctimonious local priest, and his scandalised village flock.
Cast as the villains of the piece, the unhappy villagers come across as a bad lot who enjoy a spot of rape, incest and sexual abuse, and seem merely to provide the elements of conflict and tragedy that cast a murky shadow over the liberated goings-on at Antonia's place.
It's perhaps a tad too black and white in its moral shadings, yet the winning charm of the lead characters and their glorious triumph over convention conspire to weave a magical movie.