I recently came by a 25-year-old VHS of this film, and found it every bit as good as I remembered. Yes, it betrays its origins as a stage- play (which won Michael Wilcox a London Critics Circle Theatre Award in 1983) in that there is little "action" and in the most superficial way not very much happens. Yet the themes are the great late-Shakespearean ones of reconciliation and redemption: the orphaned Paul begins by struggling against authority and against the changes in his growing body, but comes, through the unobtrusive guidance and love of two elderly mentors, to understand that the future belongs to him and that, in the last words he utters in the film, "there's so much to look forward to!"
The dramatic situation is developed so as to allow Paul's problems to be examined from many different angles; although the only child in the company of four elderly people in a boarding school during the Easter holidays, he is nevertheless the owner of the school and frequently finds himself cast in a position of responsibility over the often childish adults.
Oddly for a film in which religion plays no part (apart from a disparaging remark about a boring sermon), its theme is a deeply religious one, the darkness of Lent giving way to the redemption of Easter. The other great structural element is the Elgar violin concerto, a piece which haunts Paul, although only the 78s of the slow movement survive in the school record collection. The final scene of the film, a night-time birdwatching trip, is accompanied and eventually swallowed up by the triumphal ending of the whole concerto; the lost discs are presumed to be found, just as Paul has found again the life that he lost on the death of his parents.
McGrath and Andrews are wonderful, as is Fabia Drake in the 8th decade of her career; Constance Chapman is believably ghoulish as the murder- obsessed matron, responsible for a superb comic sequence involving a possibly-poisoned cup of Bovril, while David Langton excels as a decent man driven to behave badly by loyalty to his appalling wife.
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