Following a stay in hospital thanks to a heart attack Penelope Keeling (Vanessa Redgrave) returns to her cottage where she starts reflecting on her life; from an unhappy marriage to a very happy affair. She also has to contend with her estranged children who suddenly become more interested when they think one of the paintings their grandfather did and now in their mother's possession is worth a fortune. After heading abroad for some sun and to stay with her daughter Olivia (Victoria Smurfit) her boyfriend Cosmo (Sebastian Koch) and his daughter Antonia (Sebastian Koch) Penelope returns home and finds herself with a guest in Olivia when her father is killed in a boating accident.
I have always said that if you loved a novel don't watch the movie adaptation as you are likely to be disappointed. But sometimes I come across a movie adaptation and feel that you need to have read and enjoyed the novel to enjoy the movie as without the knowledge of where the story is going it may struggle to keep your attention. It is how I felt as I watched the 2006 adaptation of Rosamunde Pilcher "The Shell Seekers" as whilst pleasant enough it continually struggled to get me and keep me involved in the unfolding drama.
Part of the trouble with this 2006 version of "The Shell Seekers" is that it was originally a two part mini-series which means it has a running length of almost 3 hours. Now some stories benefit from having time to explore the drama and let the characters breathe but in this case I think it works against the story. I say that because the first hour of "The Shell Seekers" feels slow and unrewarding as the set up is established which is Penelope's heart condition, two of her children, Noel and Nancy, looking to cash in on an old painting and the friendship with Antonia who ends up coming to stay with Penelope. It is all nice but an hour of this set up feels drawn out.
Fortunately once we hit the second hour things begin to pick up as Penelope tells Antonia about her past, her loves, her disappointments and so on with the bond between them growing ever stronger. All of which leads to a touching and in many ways beautiful ending which if you don't know the story I will allow you to discover for your self. But again there are times when the middle and final sections of "The Shell Seekers" feels laboured, still stretching things out to fill those 176 minutes when 130 probably would have been a better length.
What doesn't help matters is that the present day with Penelope and her heart condition is in fact the 1980s and the recreation of the 1980s fails to convince with both Victoria Hamilton and Charles Edwards as Nancy and Noel looking exceptionally fake with the attempts at 80s clothes and fashion. Fortunately there is Vanessa Redgrave who as an actress has this ability to deliver looks which are so perfect that she doesn't need to speak to tell the story; the way she embraces Antonia, the wistful look in her pale blue eyes it is perfect. It is the same with Maximilian Schell who has that same ability as Penelope's artist father to act out the story rather than just telling us through the dialogue.
What this all boils down to is that "The Shell Seekers" is certainly enjoyable and features some nice performances. But at almost 3 hours this version of "The Shell Seekers" often feels drawn out making it hard work.