Ah, the nostalgia. This classic film adaptation, directed and written by Lionel Jeffries, is now as iconic as E Nesbit’s 1906 book. It’s often shown around Christmas because essentially it’s an uplifting story suitable for all the family. Even hearing the music (composed by Johnny Douglas) immediately rouses the emotions. It’s not just me, is it?!
The film follows the main events of the book. When their kind and brilliant father is arrested and taken away, a middle class family must move from their house in London to a modest dwelling in a small Yorkshire town. The three siblings, Roberta (Bobbie), Peter and Phyllis, bounce back from an unpromising start and become involved in the community. Meanwhile their fiercely devoted mother is writing stories to support them and trying to make the best of the situation. The story is shifted more to Bobbie’s point of view, almost giving the suggestion of a coming of age film. The famous moment when Bobbie is reunited with her father is the most accomplished part of the film and still brings a tear to my eye.
I love the cast, particularly Jenny Agutter as Bobbie and Dinah Sheridan as Mother. My favourite has always been Perks the station porter, played by Bernard Cribbins (this explains why I instantly liked the character of Wilfred in Doctor Who – he’s the same actor but I’ve only just discovered this).
There’s another reason why I like this film. I never fail to be impressed by steam trains. Of course they are better represented on screen than in the book. It’s interesting to think that at the time of publication, those trains were modern technology. As the years have advanced, the age of steam has become romantic to look back on, adding an extra dimension of nostalgia to the story. The film was partly shot at the Keighley and Worth Valley Railway in Yorkshire.
The very end is lovely. The camera slowly moves in on the whole cast waving and cheering on the railway line, in front of a train. The last thing you see is a slate with ‘The End’ on it, held up by Bobbie. It’s as if the actors are thanking you for watching.