Jenny Agutter

The British actor known for Walkabout and The Railway Children picks The Railway Children, The Belles of St Trinians and Don’t Look Now.

It would be hard not to include The Railway Children. With 50 years between filming and now, I think I can look at it impartially. Although I do have fond memories of working on it. It is a beautifully made film. Lionel Jeffries adapted and directed E Nesbit’s wonderful tale of three children, whose father having mysteriously disappeared, have to move with their mother to the country, to a small cottage close to a railway line, where they have several adventures. Lionel perfectly captured the way Nesbit wrote from the child’s point of view, which allows the adults to be wonderfully eccentric and larger than life. Dinah Sheridan’s mother was “magnificent” as the character Peter, (Gary Warren) says of her, when she tells the children off. Bernard Cribbins is totally delightful and moving as Perks. It is a perfect world, full of innocence and hope. The cinematography captures an idyllic spring the sort one remembers having as a child, with the sun always shining. In Johnny Douglas’s score, he creates charming musical themes for every character, reminiscent of Edwardian music-hall.

One of the films I revisited having not seen it for a while was The Belles of St Trinians. Alistair Sim gives two hilarious performances. Clarence, a gambler who puts his precocious streetwise daughter in St Trinian’s School for Young Ladies to find out about a horse owned by the father of a new girl Fatima. He also plays Clarence’s sister Millicent, head mistress of this wonderfully unruly school, she seems not to notice the girls gin-making and gambling, but neatly sidesteps the booby traps constantly being set by them. There is a wild hockey match where the St Trinian’s team decimate the opposing school team, Millicent watching with admiration as they ruthlessly beat up their opponents. Joyce Grenfell is extremely funny as an undercover police woman unwillingly taking on the job of investigating the shenanigans being reported about the school. There are so many funny intrigues and interwoven plot points, some great dialogue and the film ends with a brilliant and raucous fight between grown ups and children. I am so glad to have watched this wild and wonderful film again.

An unforgettable film, is the unnerving thriller Don’t Look Now. Nic Roeg layers the film with images and ideas. The story follows a couple whose young daughter dies accidentally. From the moment of the child’s death we are drawn in by the couples emotional journey. They go to Venice where the father, John, is restoring a church. Throughout the film, Nic Roeg plays with circumstance, coincidence and superstition. We watch the couple struggle with their grief in this decaying but stunningly beautiful, watery city. John, despite omens and warnings, cannot avoid what fate has in store for him. He is trapped by his destiny, driven by the pursuit of the ghost of his daughter.

Recommended Titles

Nic Roeg1973
Frank Launder1954
Lionel Jeffries1970