Anne Holm’s original ‘young adult’ novel, about the intelligent 12-year-old escapee who lost his parents in a post-WWII Bulgarian prison camp, was always the sort of worthy-looking book adults said you ought to read – and so you never did. This quietly pitched adaptation faces similar problems. A sophisticated version of those old-fashioned Disney live actioners where Lassie et al cross continents to return home, David’s thrilling real-life-adventures (stowing away on ships, wriggling under electric fences) are certain to grip ten-year-olds upwards – but will they go to see it?
Compared to ‘Empire of the Sun’ there’s a dab of fable-like unreality to David (Ben Tibber), who seems impossibly nice and polite for a feral camp-brat journeying from suspicion to trust. Yet British newcomer Tibber is so credible as the fearful-eyed boy who never smiles and barely speaks that you weep without feeling manipulated – even during an incredible ending. I may even finally read that book.