Viewing your Watchlist and recommended content requires Javascript

  • U
  • Drama, Family
  • 1970
  • 108 mins

The Railway Children

The Railway Children

Synopsis

Jenny Agutter and Bernard Cribbins star in this enduring adaptation of E Nesbit's classic children's story.

About

Jenny Agutter and Bernard Cribbins star in this enduring adaptation of E Nesbit's classic children's story. After their father disappears, three Edwardian children move to the country where the local railway becomes a source of hope and adventure.

A sweet and innocent reminder of what children's films used to be like and, a little less innocently perhaps, the film that launched Jenny Agutter's career as England's poshest pin-up, The Railway Children has endured extremely well. Sensitive without being sentimental, moving but never quite mawkish, Lionel Jeffries' adaptation of E Nesbit's book succeeds on the back of its quiet wit, great performances, and its refusal to patronise.

Despite the quaint setting, the set-up is unexpectedly dark. Bobby (Agutter), Phyllis (Thomsett) and Peter (Warren) are the well-heeled children whose father (Cuthbertson) is mysteriously taken away. With the family on its uppers, the kids and their unhappy mother (Sheridan) move to the country. There the local steam train becomes the focus of their lives and through it each of them undergoes a sort of personal discovery. But it's adolescent Bobby, fascinated by an anonymous passenger, who feels this experience most keenly, and it's she who sees in the train an opportunity to track down their father.

Support comes from the avuncular Bernard Cribbins and the cheerfully bumbling Lionel Jeffries. Behind the camera, Jeffries is impressively subtle, playing various strands of the story off against one another and generating some genuinely touching moments. With its puffing steam train and rolling countryside there's no denying that part of the film's appeal is its rosy evocation of a fantasy England. But it's hard to resist when the characters are so clearly stimulated by the world in which they find themselves, and Agutter's performance is at least equal to that which she'd give the following year, in Nicolas Roeg's rather less cosy coming-of-age tale Walkabout.

Cast & Connections

  • Actor: Jenny Agutter, Sally Thomsett, Iain Cuthbertson, William Mervyn, Dinah Sheridan, Bernard Cribbins
  • Director: Lionel Jeffries
  • Writer: Lionel Jeffries
  • Producer: Robert Lynn
  • Photographer: Arthur Ibbetson

In a nutshell

Intelligent, sensitive and expertly written and acted, this is an example of children's drama that manages to be positive without patronising, and which contains moments of genuine, unforced poignancy and humour.

Latest from Film4...

  • Film4

    The Five-Year Engagement

    Jason Segel and Emily Blunt are Tom and Violet, a happy couple whose plans to marry become increasingly hopeless. Co-starring Chris Pratt and a host of sit-com favourites, expect sincerely romantic moments amongst Segel's signature frat boy humour.

    On Film4: 4 Aug 9:00PM

  • Film4

    Maidan

    Documentary portrait of the winter 2013/14 Ukrainian demonstrations in Kiev against the pro-Moscow presidency of Viktor Yanukovych and for a greater integration with Europe.

  • Film4

    The Five-Year Engagement on Film4

    Jason Segel and Emily Blunt are Tom and Violet, a happy couple whose plans to marry become increasingly hopeless. Co-starring Chris Pratt and a host of sit-com favourites, expect sincerely romantic moments amongst Segel's signature frat boy humour.

  • Film4

    The Impossible on Film4

    A true story made with the intimate involvement of the Spanish family, the Alvarez Belons, to whom it happened, The Impossible tells the story of a married couple (Naomi Watts, Ewan McGregor) and their three sons, who were holidaying in Thailand when the

Register with Film4.com

Personalise your Film4 experience

  • Set film reminders
  • Build your watchlist
  • Get film suggestions

or Register

Share