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A mixture of a psychological study of a ten-year-old boy, an English domestic comedy and a satire on psychologists finds young Johnny Brent, the only child of a pair of psychologists, trading an "invisible watch" to a much-younger child for a large magnet. His nurse/nanny accuses him of stealing and scolds him and he runs away. He soon convinces himself that the police are after him and following several unsuccessful attempts to get rid of the magnet, he presents it to an organizer of a fund-raising campaign for acquiring an iron-lung for the local hospital. The magnet is one of the auction items and finally is mounted on the iron-lung as a tribute to the unknown donor. Meanwhile, the father makes a completely inaccurate diagnosis for the mother of the boy's worries. In the end the boy meets the child he thought had died as a result of losing the magnet, and trades the boy back for the return of his "invisible watch" the gold medal the town mayor had given him for his part in the ... Written by
Les Adams <email@example.com>
This post-war British film from the great Ealing studios, is a charming tale of innocence lost, and particularly the idea of childhood guilt, brought on by a small incident and exacerbated by fear and misconstrued information. Johnny Brent (a young James Fox - billed as William Fox), a 10 year old wanderer, cons a younger boy into giving him his magnet. After feeling guilt (and particularly the fear of being caught out) he hands the powerful magnet to a charity organiser, feeling that he would be rid of his culpability. His imagination - coupled with his stricken conscience - takes over, as the boy with the magnet becomes of interest to the local authorities. He overhears and misinterprets some information he believes is connected with the boy he stole from. Fearing that he has caused the death of the boy, Johnny runs away.
The Magnet is full of genuine charm. It almost perfectly captures those moments of childhood where we believe we have done great wrong - a usual emotion of guilt, but particularly it is the acquisition of information in these situations that are fundamentally ingrained on our conscience. Johnny's father, Dr Brent (Stephen Murray), is a Jungian Psychoanalyst who attempts to interpret the unusual behaviour of his son, which leads to some interesting asides - this could possibly even be a criticism of this form of psychology, and it's intrinsic hypotheses that all strange behaviours are connected to the parents.
This is by no means the greatest of Ealing Studios output, but it is a delightful story of youth, with a good lead performance from Fox. It is always irresistible to watch old British films, and see an autonomous country that looks individual, before the signs and signifiers of American consumerism invaded and changed the landscape forever.
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