Adapted and directed by Lionel Jeffries (Grandpa Potts in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang), this adaptation of E Nesbit’s much-loved novel is one of the most beloved children’s film ever made in the UK.
Told with quiet intelligence and wry humour, the story follows three Edwardian siblings as they relocate to Yorkshire with their mother (Dinah Sheridan), following their father’s wrongful arrest for treason. Lovingly told, it is a nostalgic, simple, down-to-earth story, where the magic comes from its believable familial relationships and its portrait of the bucolic Yorkshire countryside.
That is not to say that the set pieces are not equally memorable, whether it’s the prevention of a train wreck, the rescue of a schoolboy trapped in a tunnel, or the collection of birthday gifts for the proud but kindly stationmaster (winningly played by Bernard Cribbins). Sally Thomsett and Gary Warren are laudably spirited as Phyllis and Peter, but it’s Jenny Agutter’s performance as Bobbie that is perhaps most fondly remembered – perfectly balancing a child’s passion for adventure with a growing sense of responsibility as she comes to understand her family’s predicament.
Despite the film’s gentle pace, the film is a perennial favourite across generations, and its famous ending has left many viewers misty-eyed and grabbing for the tissues.