An exemplary version of Frances Hodgson Burnett's novel has been updated to WWI. When her father, an army captain and a widower, is posted to France from India, young Sara (Matthews, excellent) is lodged in the New York boarding school of Miss Minchin (Bron). No sooner has her classmates' resentment at her wealth abated (Sara keeps them spellbound with accounts of the Hindu myths) than news arrives of father's death in the trenches. The ogreish Miss Minchin casts off her hypocrite's cloak and dispatches Sara to the school's Gothic attic, her only solace being secret meetings with the black servant Becky. Director Cuarón transforms these elements of Victorian melodramatic contrivance with skill and sensitivity into a humanist rites-of-passage story. He's audacious, too: the Bollywood pastels of the myth sequences; an exciting, Lean-like rooftop escape; a magical snow-shake which is a moment of sheer cinematic elan. And when Sara offers her passionate, outraged response - 'Every little girl is a little princess!' - to Miss Minchin's scorn, she turns the declaration into a defiant defence of dignity and dreams.