The Railway Children Review: The children’s adventure has lost none of its clean charm | Movie

TThere can’t be many classic British family films featuring exiled Russian anti-tsarist writers in Yorkshire. The Railway Children from 1970 is now being re-released, as the backdrop for an upcoming sequel, The Railway Children Return, set 40 years later and featuring Jenny Agutter playing an adult version of his original character.

Lionel Jeffries, who also adapted Edith Nesbit’s novel, solidly and deftly directs the original, and continues to exert his grip on our collective teatime imaginations, due to his unworldly sweetness, gentleness, and direct sense of decency. , especially, perhaps, that final scene in which the children’s wrongfully imprisoned father emerges from the steam on the train platform, a moment as dramatic and mysterious as Omar Sharif galloping through the heat haze in Lawrence of Arabia, to the delight of Jenny Agutter: “Oh my daddy!”

Iain Cuthbertson is Charles Waterbury, the good-natured civil servant and genial family man who lives in an upper-middle-class environment in the London suburbs with his wife (Dinah Sheridan) and their three children: Bobbie, played by Jenny Agutter, her younger sister Phyllis, expertly played by 20-year-old Sally Thomsett, the leading lady of the most glorious juve in British film history, and younger brother Peter, played by Gary Warren. When Charles is wrongly arrested and imprisoned for selling state secrets, the children and their mother have to move to a modest Yorkshire country house where the mother apparently supports them by selling stories to London magazines; when one is published, they can have scones for tea. Freelance writers got paid fast in those days.

Bobbie, Phyllis and Peter love hanging out at the station with their new best friend, the station master, Mr. Perks – a charming performance by Bernard Cribbins. They also love waving to passengers from the hillside as the train chugs past (there are a lot of wavings in this movie) noting in particular a kind soul indulgently waving back, played by William Mervyn, affectionately nicknamed the “Old Gentleman.” “. . But when one day they see a landslide bringing branches and old sleepers crashing onto the tracks, with no time to warn Mr. Perks, the three brave and resourceful youngsters rush onto the track to stop the oncoming train, waving Phyllis and Bobbie’s red petticoats like warning flags. And that’s just one of his adventures, which includes that Russian fugitive.

Perhaps the film’s conception of “poverty” seems a bit quaint in 2022, and child actors don’t act like that now, because they’re certainly not really children. But unlike Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (where Jeffries made his own mark as an actor), the children are strongly defined characters and never overshadowed by the adults; It all adds to the charm of this movie. I love Agutter’s wonderful midnight blue and dazzling white sailor suits, Thomsett’s knit cap, and Warren’s impeccably tailored three-piece in which he walks like a miniature Edwardian gentleman. The railways themselves were an exotic and romantic adventure in 1906, something mythical and futuristic at the same time.

The Railway Children opens July 3 in theaters.

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