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Seal Morning (1986)

Directors: David Cobham and Jim Goddard
Based on a novel by Rowena Farre

Parents looking for Family Night movies may have trouble finding features appropriate for all ages. Seal Morning, a movie made for television in 1986, is sure to please all ages.

Based on an autobiographical novel by Rowena Farre, the movie is a coming of age story. Author Farre, born in India to British parents, was sent at the age of ten to live with an aunt on a croft in Sutherland, Scotland. The film adaptation moves the setting to Norfolk on the east coast of England and makes Rowena a newly-orphaned adolescent.

Having lost both parents in a car accident, Rowena (Holly Aird) is sent to a bitter, reclusive aunt (Jane Lapotaire) she barely knows. Used to city life, Rowena must work through her grief while adapting to life in a cottage bare of creature comforts, located in a cruel, unpredictable climate.

Rowena's Aunt Miriam, disappointed in love, has replaced human relationships by anthropomorphizing animals. She has a pet rat, Rodney, that roams the cottage and destroys a photo of Rowena's parents. Miriam refuses to keep Rodney in a metal cage for fear he'll hurt his teeth trying to get out. Instead she keeps him in a wooden cage which cannot hold him.

Miriam's attitude towards her dog is the same. She permits him to roam at night even though she lives in sheep country where unsupervised dogs are a threat to flocks.

Rowena is in danger of becoming as bitter as her aunt when she finds an orphaned baby seal and persuades her aunt to let her keep it.

David Birney does an admirable job as Dr. Bernard Lacey, a naturalist who loves animals, but never tries to relate to them as if they were human. When Lacey brings his fiancée Sylvia (Liza Goddard) to share the beauties of Norfolk, he discovers that she is not a suitable choice for the kind of life he wishes to live. They break off their engagement and he is drawn to Miriam.

The seal of the story, Lora, is a focus and catalyst. Because of her the local landowner realizes the importance of setting aside land as a bird and seal sanctuary. Because of her, Rowena develops a desire to work with wildlife and plans to study to be a nature warden.

It's a great family film, with something for everyone, especially animal lovers.

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