Whistle Down the Wind - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Whistle Down the Wind Reviews

Page 1 of 6
August 14, 2016
If there is a better film about childhood I haven't seen it.
The child actors are superb and completely natural.
The black and white filming adds to the extraordinary atmospherics and perfectly replicates the bleakness of post war Britain. The shot of the leafless winter tree on the horizon with the children dancing around it is a masterpiece.
Even the Christ parallel which, in most films, grates with saccharine sweetness is well handled.
"It isn't Jesus. It's just a fella" is one of the great lines.
½ May 5, 2014
Bryan Forbes' first directorial effort is set in a rugged Lancashire farm community. Three impressionable children, played by Hayley Mills, Diane Holgate, and Alan Barnes, come across a bearded vagrant named Arthur Blakey (Alan Bates) sleeping in their barn. Upon awakening, the ill-tempered bum takes a look at the white-eyed kids and mutters the imprecation "Jesus Christ!" In their innocence, the children assume that Arthur is Jesus Christ, and they spread the word to their friends. In truth, he is an escaped killer. This movie has breath taking cinematography and the charterers were funny.
April 14, 2014
I love this film.
I love its simplicity, its charm and its innocents.
January 21, 2014
Wonderful British film about three siblings who mistake a wounded man sleeping in their barn for Jesus Christ. The storyline is very clever and the children led by Hayley Mills as Kathy are fabulous.
rubystevens
Super Reviewer
June 4, 2013
great performances from the kids. even hayley mills isn't too annoying. the metaphor is a little heavy handed tho. possible inspiration for 'spirit of the beehive'??
May 9, 2013
A nigh on perfect film with brilliantly naturalistic performances by adults and children alike, particularly the two Alans: Alan Bates as 'Jesus' and Alan Barnes as Charlie.
February 17, 2012
A timeless classic which has some memorable scenes and dialoge. An old fashion picture about the innocence of children and how they see things differently to adults. A remake just wouldn't work today....
December 7, 2011
Brilliant! Perfect performances. A beautiful film. It's absolutely heart-breaking... In a very good way.
August 1, 2011
Classic with special mention going to Hayley Mills.
½ July 3, 2011
Some children find a man in their barn and think he is Jesus. One might expect a compelling character piece focusing on the relationship between a child and a criminal of ambiguous origin. One might not expect nothing to happen for an hour and thirty-five minutes. The man doesn't even wake up for an hour.

The man is interesting, but he's barely in it and does little else than say 'thanks' and 'oh'. The children's naive and matter of fact beliefs are funny, but only for a little while. The rest of the film is very slow, nothing happens, no character relationships grow and it goes nowhere. It's also not remotely ambiguous, which kills half the story right there, while the rest of the story never bothers showing up. Next time, write some characters.
June 15, 2011
saw this when it first came out, seen it hundreds of times since, still love it, one of my favourites
½ September 14, 2010
1960s childhood innocence. Wonderful acting by the 1960s children.
August 3, 2010
This is really charming and well made. The storyline is a really good one about a fugitive murderer who pretends to be Jesus Christ and gets some wide-eyed innocents to bring him food. It helps that all the children are good actors, too!
May 11, 2010
Whistle Down the Wind is a truly extraordinary film. Bryan Forbes‚?? debut feature is a gut-wrenching, darkly comic allegory which takes one of history‚??s most spectacular events and retells it in the most bittersweet of circumstances. It foreshadows both the gritty, compelling realism of Ken Loach and other great Christian allegories such as Being There and The Green Mile. Most of all, it‚??s a fantastic commentary on childhood, belief and the erosion of both by the grim realities of the adult world.

It is remarkable that a film about some of the most complex aspects of theology should be so accessible and welcoming to the casual viewer. The film‚??s treatment of its biblical subject matter is neither bald nor manipulative; it never glosses over important questions, nor does it ever make a deliberate tug on the heartstrings of its audience. Every shred of emotion we have for Kathy, Blakey and the rest is completely genuine, and in its third act the film builds to a breathless final scene, in which we are completely in the shoes of the central character.

In a number of ways, this is the opposite of The Railway Children, both as a novel and later as film. Where The Railway Children is essentially light, airy and carefree, with only moments of real danger, Whistle Down the Wind feels strict and repressive. Arthur Ibbetson‚??s brooding cinematography paints the Lancashire countryside as somewhere stark and unforgiving; the early scenes of Kathy and Charles walking over the hills are closer to the ‚??dance of death‚?? at the end of The Seventh Seal than to Jenny Agutter‚??s pleasant frolicking along the railway lines. Shooting in black-and-white gives the film a Bergman-esque sense of pathos, particularly towards the end where Kathy‚??s world virtually comes apart.

The film makes it clear very early on that it is a Biblical allegory, reinterpreting several key passages from the Gospels. The score riffs on the carol ‚??We Three Kings‚?? and the scene of the children presenting gifts to Alan Bates in the barn is a clear restaging of the nativity, with Kathy et al as the shepherds and the other children as the Magi. In this version, the ‚??Arabian charm bracelet‚?? and free gift in the comic stand in for gold, frankincense and myrrh, while the story Bates reads from the comic represents either the parables or the Sermon on the Mount. This kind of gesture is present throughout the film, right up to the moment where Bates is searched and holds up his arms like he is being hung on the cross.

Although it restages the story of Jesus from birth to death, the central message of Whistle Down the Wind lies in the middle of Matthew‚??s gospel: ‚??unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.‚?? This is not a film which views children as stupid, or gullible, or easily manipulated. If anything they are the opposite, possessing a large amount of common sense and reasoning. This may be structured around something which we as an audience know to be ‚??untrue‚??, but the children‚??s ‚??faith‚?? in Blakey is never portrayed as irrational or foolish.

In contrast to the children‚??s openness and willingness to believe, the adults in the film are reluctant to talk about religion, or indeed any moral issues which are outside their own interests. The film does touch on church, Sunday school and the Salvation Army, but all the scenes directly involving these see the adults skirting the issues, dodging the difficult questions and worrying instead about trivial matters like lead and guttering. In the scene in the caf√© between Kathy and the vicar (who can‚??t even remember her name), his answer to her question quickly gets off topic and becomes an irrelevant sermon. The bully is the oldest of the children and the most prominent sceptic in the group, to the point at which he slaps Kathy when she first tells him the news. He is already on his way to adulthood, settling for dark monotony over other-worldly hope.

The idea that the film puts across so brilliantly is very similar to that hinted at in Being There: namely that if Jesus were to return to earth, we would not recognise or accept Him. This is a world which clings onto religion and traditional order, and in doing so has turned its back on the childlike nature of faith, the only thing which a relationship with Jesus requires. The adults in the film are so wrapped up in their own affairs, so sure of their own convictions and traditions, that they are unable to even accept for a moment the possibility that Kathy is telling the truth.

This meaty subject is well-handed by a subtle script adapted from Mary Hayley Bell‚??s novel. The film revels in the earthiness of its dialogue; it doesn‚??t feel like a pretend version of Lancashire, with the characters as parodies of working-class life. Forbes‚?? direction is notably unfussy, shooting key moments in the most understated way to allow the themes of the dialogue to speak for themselves. The best example of this comes after the death of Charles‚?? kitten, where he and Kathy discuss why things have to die. Rather than make this a confrontation, Forbes shoots it with the camera at their backs as they fling pebbles into the lake. The film treats the deepest philosophical questions on a level playing field with every other issue the characters face, arguing that these questions are just as important and relevant as anything which the adults consider superior.

The bleakness of the characters‚?? predicament is punctuated by a wonderful sense of humour. The film derives its initial comedy from the warm, brutal honesty of the children, largely on the part of Charles who is wonderfully played by Alan Barnes. In an early scene, Kathy expresses doubts about the Bible being true, and Charles spits out the line, ‚??wait ‚??til Jesus comes and gets you!‚??. Later, after his sister remarks that Jesus can do anything, he asks if the Lord can provide him with a big chocolate cake for his birthday. Gradually the film becomes more pathos-ridden and this outr√© kind of humour is replaced with a deep, underlying sadness. By the end we are in the same territory as Charlie Chaplin‚??s The Kid, and the only comedic element is a conditionally happy ending.

Hayley Mills‚?? central performance is incredible, being truly naturalistic and yet wise beyond her years. Bernard Lee, most famous for playing M in the James Bond films, is very compelling as the father, who attempts to stamp his authority on the household but is ultimately in the pocket of Auntie Dorothy. And Alan Bates‚?? performance is very good, on a par with his best work in Women in Love.

Whistle Down the Wind is a magnificent piece of British filmmaking, with strong performances and an even stronger script which convey deep questions about life and purpose in the most accessible way. The dialogue is intelligent without being pretentious, the direction is suitably unfussy, and the film is emotionally gripping to the point at which at moves you to tears. Without this, Being There, The Green Mile and Angela‚??s Ashes probably would not have been made. But more than that, it demonstrates the relevance of a story which is so often ignored in today‚??s society. It is a subtle reminder of the power of faith and the need to see the world with the open eyes of a child.
Daniel Mumby
Super Reviewer
May 10, 2010
Whistle Down the Wind is a truly extraordinary film. Bryan Forbes' debut feature is a gut-wrenching, darkly comic allegory which takes one of history's most spectacular events and retells it in the most bittersweet of circumstances. It foreshadows both the gritty, compelling realism of Ken Loach and other great Christian allegories such as Being There and The Green Mile. Most of all, it's a fantastic commentary on childhood, belief and the erosion of both by the grim realities of the adult world.

It is remarkable that a film about some of the most complex aspects of theology should be so accessible and welcoming to the casual viewer. The film's treatment of its biblical subject matter is neither bald nor manipulative; it never glosses over important questions, nor does it ever make a deliberate tug on the heartstrings of its audience. Every shred of emotion we have for Kathy, Blakey and the rest is completely genuine, and in its third act the film builds to a breathless final scene, in which we are completely in the shoes of the central character.

In a number of ways, this is the opposite of The Railway Children, both as a novel and later as film. Where The Railway Children is essentially light, airy and carefree, with only moments of real danger, Whistle Down the Wind feels strict and repressive. Arthur Ibbetson's brooding cinematography paints the Lancashire countryside as somewhere stark and unforgiving; the early scenes of Kathy and Charles walking over the hills are closer to the 'dance of death' at the end of The Seventh Seal than to Jenny Agutter's pleasant frolicking along the railway lines. Shooting in black-and-white gives the film a Bergman-esque sense of pathos, particularly towards the end where Kathy's world virtually comes apart.

The film makes it clear very early on that it is a Biblical allegory, reinterpreting several key passages from the Gospels. The score riffs on the carol 'We Three Kings' and the scene of the children presenting gifts to Alan Bates in the barn is a clear restaging of the nativity, with Kathy et al as the shepherds and the other children as the Magi. In this version, the "Arabian charm bracelet" and free gift in the comic stand in for gold, frankincense and myrrh, while the story Bates reads from the comic represents either the parables or the Sermon on the Mount. This kind of gesture is present throughout the film, right up to the moment where Bates is searched and holds up his arms like he is being hung on the cross.

Although it restages the story of Jesus from birth to death, the central message of Whistle Down the Wind lies in the middle of Matthew's gospel: "unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven." This is not a film which views children as stupid, or gullible, or easily manipulated. If anything they are the opposite, possessing a large amount of common sense and reasoning. This may be structured around something which we as an audience know to be 'untrue', but the children's 'faith' in Blakey is never portrayed as irrational or foolish.

In contrast to the children's openness and willingness to believe, the adults in the film are reluctant to talk about religion, or indeed any moral issues which are outside their own interests. The film does touch on church, Sunday school and the Salvation Army, but all the scenes directly involving these see the adults skirting the issues, dodging the difficult questions and worrying instead about trivial matters like lead and guttering. In the scene in the cafť between Kathy and the vicar (who can't even remember her name), his answer to her question quickly gets off topic and becomes an irrelevant sermon. The bully is the oldest of the children and the most prominent sceptic in the group, to the point at which he slaps Kathy when she first tells him the news. He is already on his way to adulthood, settling for dark monotony over other-worldly hope.

The idea that the film puts across so brilliantly is very similar to that hinted at in Being There: namely that if Jesus were to return to earth, we would not recognise or accept Him. This is a world which clings onto religion and traditional order, and in doing so has turned its back on the childlike nature of faith, the only thing which a relationship with Jesus requires. The adults in the film are so wrapped up in their own affairs, so sure of their own convictions and traditions, that they are unable to even accept for a moment the possibility that Kathy is telling the truth.

This meaty subject is well-handed by a subtle script adapted from Mary Hayley Bell's novel. The film revels in the earthiness of its dialogue; it doesn't feel like a pretend version of Lancashire, with the characters as parodies of working-class life. Forbes' direction is notably unfussy, shooting key moments in the most understated way to allow the themes of the dialogue to speak for themselves. The best example of this comes after the death of Charles' kitten, where he and Kathy discuss why things have to die. Rather than make this a confrontation, Forbes shoots it with the camera at their backs as they fling pebbles into the lake. The film treats the deepest philosophical questions on a level playing field with every other issue the characters face, arguing that these questions are just as important and relevant as anything which the adults consider superior.

The bleakness of the characters' predicament is punctuated by a wonderful sense of humour. The film derives its initial comedy from the warm, brutal honesty of the children, largely on the part of Charles who is wonderfully played by Alan Barnes. In an early scene, Kathy expresses doubts about the Bible being true, and Charles spits out the line, "wait 'til Jesus comes and gets you!". Later, after his sister remarks that Jesus can do anything, he asks if the Lord can provide him with a big chocolate cake for his birthday. Gradually the film becomes more pathos-ridden and this outrť kind of humour is replaced with a deep, underlying sadness. By the end we are in the same territory as Charlie Chaplin's The Kid, and the only comedic element is a conditionally happy ending.

Hayley Mills' central performance is incredible, being truly naturalistic and yet wise beyond her years. Bernard Lee, most famous for playing M in the James Bond films, is very compelling as the father, who attempts to stamp his authority on the household but is ultimately in the pocket of Auntie Dorothy. And Alan Bates' performance is very good, on a par with his best work in Women in Love.

Whistle Down the Wind is a magnificent piece of British filmmaking, with strong performances and an even stronger script which convey deep questions about life and purpose in the most accessible way. The dialogue is intelligent without being pretentious, the direction is suitably unfussy, and the film is emotionally gripping to the point at which at moves you to tears. Without this, Being There, The Green Mile and Angela's Ashes probably would not have been made. But more than that, it demonstrates the relevance of a story which is so often ignored in today's society. It is a subtle reminder of the power of faith and the need to see the world with the open eyes of a child.
March 7, 2010
We loved this movie when we first saw it !
February 9, 2010
great film from childhood, still holds up well, funny, sad and just lovely
½ January 12, 2010
Love this film , one of my all time favorites, the innocense of youth , great acting ( can't believe it was the little lads only acting role).
December 5, 2009
Great film of old northern England life with the flawless as ever Hayley Mills. The music gets very annoying with all the piccolos and flutes playing all the time and some of the childrens acting is a bit stilted but a lovely film nonetheless.
September 24, 2009
"He's not Jesus, he's just a fella"
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