When the Whales Came

Film, Family and kids

Time Out says

A rather simple-minded tale of magic, friendship and conflict, scripted by Michael Morpurgo from his own children's novel set on one of the Scilly Isles at the start of WWI, with soaring strings, sweeping landscapes, and a no-sex, no violence, uplifting storyline about redemption through being kind to animals and befriending lonely oldsters. Mirren perfects her beautiful, battered but unbowed act; Scofield is magisterial as the Birdman, a kindly hermit; while the two children central to the action are played with delightful spontaneity by Max Rennie and lithping Helen Pearce. The endangered animal is an authentically mournful beached narwhal. A climactic, cinematically beautiful sequence has torch-wielding villagers wading into a twilt sea to ward off more of the beasts, but mostly Rees just points his camera at the wonders of nature. Don't even try to swallow the preposterously happy, mythic ending.


Release details

100 mins

Cast and crew

Clive Rees
Michael Morpurgo
Helen Mirren
Paul Scofield
David Suchet
Barbara Jefford
David Threlfall
Barbara Ewing
Jeremy Kemp
Max Rennie
Helen Pearce
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