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The Flame Trees of Thika
The Flame Trees of Thika
Actors: Hayley Mills, David Robb, Holly Aird, Mick Chege, Sharon Maughan
Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama, Television
NR     2005     5hr 50min

When a young Edwardian family leaves the shores of England to build a home in the wilderness of East Africa, what they encounter is beyond their imagination, but forever remembered through the eyes of their 11-year-old dau...  more »


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Movie Details

Actors: Hayley Mills, David Robb, Holly Aird, Mick Chege, Sharon Maughan
Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama, Television
Sub-Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama, Television
Studio: A&E Home Video
Format: DVD - Color - Miniseries
DVD Release Date: 03/29/2005
Original Release Date: 01/03/1982
Theatrical Release Date: 01/03/1982
Release Year: 2005
Run Time: 5hr 50min
Screens: Color
Number of Discs: 2
SwapaDVD Credits: 2
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 3
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Languages: English

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Movie Reviews

A great story!!
Adorem | 05/19/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Based on an autobiographical novel by Elspeth Huxley, this 1981 film tells the story of the Grant family - little Elspeth (Holly Aird) and her parents, Robin (David Robb) and Tilly (Hayley Mills) - after they arrive in Kenya to start a coffee plantation. The episodic production begins when a lion greets the horse-drawn carriage transporting Tilly and Elspeth to the site of the plantation. Tilly stares the lion down with the help of a poised shotgun, demonstrating her resolve to make a go of it in the rugged new land. After the Grants construct a home with the help of Kikuyu natives, they hold a housewarming attended by neighbors Hereward (Nicholas Jones) and Lettice Palmer (Sharon Maughan), fellow Brits who have also settled in Kenya. Meanwhile, 11-year-old Elspeth revels in the land, the wildlife, and her new Kenyan friends. While her parents are away, Elspeth stays with Mrs. Nimmo (Carol MacReady), a Scotswoman who corrects the little girl's manners and makes her dress formally for dinner. During the day, Elspeth travels back and forth to her home on a pony to feed her pet deer and pet chameleons. On one trip, she meets and makes friends with Englishman Ian Crawfurd (Ben Cross), a newcomer. After her parents return and host the Palmers and Crawfurd at a get-together, Crawfurd and Lettice Palmer, who is bored with her husband, Hereward, and Africa, fall in love and begin an affair. A leopard carries off a dog Lettice cherishes, and everyone joins in a hunt for the animal, including wily Boer huntsman Mr. Roos (William Morgan Sheppard). On the hunt, Lettice and Ian Crawfurd, whose affair has become obvious to all, provoke Hereward. Ian and Hereward brawl. A native whom Hereward insults with a racist remark stabs Hereward, but he survives. When the first World War begins, Robin and Ian both do service. Will they come back? That is the question that gnaws at Elspeth and her mom - and Lettice - while life goes on at Thika
Menacing leopards, racism, war, and the whims of nature vie for attention with a charming little girl in this six-hour production chronicling the fortunes of a British family in East Africa in the early 20th century. Time and again, it is the little girl - a dimpled tyke with a curious mind - who wins the viewer's favor. Her name is Holly Aird, an actress with a rare ability to communicate childhood in all of its innocent wonder. She portrays Elspeth Grant, an 11-year-old whose parents, Robin and Tilly, forsake an easy tea-and-crumpets life in England to coax a coffee crop from scrub land in the vast, open reaches of Kenya. The Grants lead an idyllic life, full of the romance and adventure of untamed Africa. But the film does not ignore the hard realities of everyday life: the racism of white overlords, the infidelity of a bored neighbor woman, and the slaughter of wildlife by trophy hunters. In her role as Elspeth, young Aird sets an example for the adults, making friends with shy blacks, oddball whites, a spindly deer, and two chameleons. She develops a special rapport with British hunter Ian Crawfurd (Ben Cross) and wins over priggish Scotswoman Mrs. Nimmo ( Carol MacReady) and gruff Boer Mr. Roos (William Morgan Sheppard). Hayley Mills, herself a winsome child actor in earlier days, plays Elspeth's mom, the neighborhood's nurse, and everybody's shoulder to cry on. Her well-starched British manners suffer a wrinkle or two as she adjusts to African life, but she maintains her good humor throughout. So, too, does David Robb as Elspeth's father, who does not cower before foul weather, arid land, and war. Lending authenticity to the film are native East Africans recruited to play the black Kenyans.

This is a truly great story and is one I remember so well seeing on PBS back in 1981. its so great that this is on DVD!!!

Gentle On My Mind..... | Wallingford, CT USA | 01/03/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)

"When this mini-series aired on Masterpiece Theatre back in 1983, it captured my interest from the very start. As a single parent, I could barely wait for Sunday evenings to roll around for the next episode, not just to relax, but revel in the beauty of this story. The candor with which the historical events (both positive and negative) surrounding Elspeth Huxley's early life in Africa is displayed is both refreshing and heartwarming. I wish every child could experience growing up in a world such as little Elspeth did. As a previous reviewer remarked, this story was indelibly inscribed upon my mind and heart---I have never forgotten it throughout the years, although I strain to remember other stories and movies I have seen. Even the haunting movie score comes to mind more often than not. Since that first viewing, I have borrowed it from my local public library and I now plan to purchase the set for my personal video library. I highly recommend this movie--it is one you'll not soon forget!"
Memorable filmmaking
J. Anderson | Monterey, CA USA | 03/25/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)

"One of BBC's finest miniseries. Hayley Mills is perfect and subtle and full of surprises as Elspeth's mother. Hawkesworth's adaptation cuts sumptuously to the bone, understated and pulsing with life. Shot entirely in Kenya, director Roy Ward Baker favors colors gorgeous and contagious, and courageous in the indoor scenes, with thoughtful closeup angles underscoring the accumulating tensions that orchestrate the heart of the story. It ends up a relentless examination of British Colonialism, but without rancor. Bitterness is hidden most of the film, peeking out at a few crucial moments, but in the end the indictment stands. For all its natural beauty, Flame Trees is a film of a big sadness, and is more lovable for it. Holly Aird is a revelation as Elspeth, sometimes seeming to channel the woman Elspeth Huxley became, curious and invincible. Elspeth's trusting friendship with Njombo, an African plantation worker, is a small sweet light coursing through the film, and her exploration of African wildlife is moving. If you missed Flame Trees of Thika, get this DVD, then by all means read Elspeth Huxley - the two fit hand in glove. Warm recommendation."
Mini-Series that you can't stop watching.
M | Lighthouse Pt, FL United States | 10/01/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)

"This is a fine piece of work with Hayley Mills in the starring role.The story is seen through the eyes of the child in the film. Set in Africa, before it was settled by the English in the pre 1914 era, this is a fascinating story. I will confess I did get a little bored during the first episode.It didn't take long before I was so hooked on it, I couldn't stop watching the 4 tape set. This is the type of film that remains with you long after you have finished watching it."