It’s 1917, the Great War is raging, and children are being evacuated from London. Robert, Cyril, Anthea, Jane and baby Lamb go to stay with their eccentric Uncle Albert (Kenneth Branagh), while thier father, a pilot, goes to fight in France. While exploring Uncle Albert’s sprawling mansion, a secret passageway leads them to a beach where the discover a sarcastic Sand Fairy with wish-granting powers.
I haven’t read the book it’s based on, but taken on its own merits, this is a sweet little film. It skips over a host of plot details (such as where Thursday and last October vanished to, and exactly what the housekeeper knows about the Sand Fairy) in favour of delivering a simple story about family bonds, magic going wrong and lessons being learned. My favourite scenes, though, were those with the Sand Fairy. Eddie Izzard provides its voice, and does so with his characteristic sly absurdity. “Have your parents tried boiling you?” Nice, but not quite a classic.