It's by turns funny, twee, heart-warming and innocent, yet always adorable and tear-jerking. Yet it must be said that time has been kind to The Railway Children.
Even when it was made, it was a tale from a more innocent period. For people of a certain age – particularly men with who have always had a crush on Jenny Agutter – it's a film with fond memories. The good news is that with this re-release to mark the film's 40th anniversary, an entire new generation gets the chance to discover this charming story. Given the success of the Nanny McPhee movies, the anachronistic nature of story shouldn't prevent today's children falling under its many charms.
The story is a little darker than you probably remember. When their father is arrested, three children – Bobbie (Agutter), Phyllis (Thomsett) and Peter (Warren), and their mother (Sheridan) – are forced to leave their comfy London life for a more modest existence in Yorkshire. Here they befriend a railway station porter, Mr Perks (Cribbins at his charming best), wave to a friendly-faced Old Gentleman (William Mervyn) as his train steams by each morning and unwittingly put into motion a series of events that will change their lives.
It's pretty easy to remember this film as a rather naive tale of Edwardian social mores, but there's much more to it than that. Treason, peril, stories of derring-do, a hint of puberty and, of course, one of the most emotional finales in British cinema history. If you can keep a dry eye when Bobbie's running down the platform shouting "Daddy! My Daddy!" then you're a better man than I. Sweetly written and delicately played, The Railway Children remains a bona fide family classic.
EXTRAS ★★ Now and Then: a Retrospective Documentary on The Railway Children (20 minutes); interviews with stars Agutter, Cribbins and Thomsett, and author Jacqueline Wilson.