Starring: Jenny Agutter, Sally Thomsett, Gary Warren
Director: Lionel Jeffries
Running Time: 109 mins
The Railway Children is a British film about three wealthy children who move to a small Yorkshire town, where they spend their days playing by the railway and discovering new things about the world.
A wonderfully idyllic portrait of childhood and the past, The Railway Children touches on the wide-eyed, ambitious spirit of the age of steam in gorgeous style, bolstered by powerful nostalgia, touching coming-of-age drama and delightful performances across the board.
First off, you’ll notice that The Railway Children is a fairly episodic story, chronicling the adventures of three wealthy children as they move to a small Yorkshire town. A structure like that can often spell disaster for a film, but it works wonders here.
Following the best adventures of the children is the perfect way to capture the nostalgia that this film really aims for. After all, when you reminisce about childhood, you remember the most fun episodes, and that’s something which the film replicates beautifully.
Also, it gives The Railway Children a delightfully free atmosphere, emphasising the innocence of childhood as we watch our three leads spend almost all of their time away from home, out and about with the local townspeople and by the railway.
It’s a wonderful portrait of a bygone era when children spent their days truly care-free, and that boundless spirit and freedom is mirrored in the film’s portrait of the railways, which were in their heyday at the turn of the 20th century.
As well as featuring appearances from a number of classic trains, this film reminisces about the age of steam, when railways were king and stood at the very centre of every community up and down the country.
Admittedly, the movie does have some rather rose-tinted glasses as it looks back to the age of steam, but it works wonderfully in tandem with its portrayal of childhood.
However, The Railway Children isn’t all fluffy, lovey-dovey Edwardian innocence. In fact, there’s some really gripping drama at play too, mostly in the form of a coming-of-age story for our three young leads.
As they spend their carefree days frolicking in the fields and down by the train tracks, the children also encounter new challenges, from the harshness of reality to the difficulties of adulthood, a gripping theme played out in their relationship with the local station master, played by Bernard Cribbins.
As a result, there’s real depth to this story that goes beyond its joyful presentation of childhood and the age of steam. Its elegance and wide-eyed, free spirit is certainly its biggest appeal, but the depth of its story isn’t to be missed either. So, that’s why I’m giving The Railway Children a 7.7 overall.