What is a children’s film? Is it a film aimed specifically at younger viewers, tailor-made to cater to their growing needs? Maybe it’s a film about childhood, a coming-of-age story that resonates with a wide range of viewers, young and old alike. Or perhaps it’s simply any film that a child could watch, anything that isn’t restricted by its nature to adult-only audiences.
From as far back as I can remember, I spent as much time in the cinema as possible, seeing anything and everything that I was allowed to watch – with occasionally traumatic results. I remember one Saturday morning in 1970, when I was eight years old. My mother dropped my brother and me at the local Odeon while she went and did the weekly shopping. She knew the film showing that morning would be suitable for us because it had a U certificate, meaning “universal” – fit for all!
Hours - Cinema - Floods - Tears - Film
Two hours later, she picked us up outside the cinema in floods of tears. The film we’d been watching was Ken Loach’s Kes – a milestone of British cinema that didn’t shy away from depicting the grim realities of its central character’s hard-knocks life, including beatings, taunting, naked humiliation, and (in the final reel) horrible animal death.
Despite my distress, I have never once regretted seeing Kes at such a young age (it has since been reclassified PG, meaning that parents should take care). Other movies that I saw around the same age included Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, Andrei Tarkovsky’s Solaris, Arthur Hiller’s Plaza Suite, Jean-Luc Godard’s Alphaville, Franklin J Schaffner’s Patton (Elvis’s favourite film!), Jess Franco’s The Castle of Fu Manchu and a string of catastrophe-filled 70s disaster movies from Airport to The Towering Inferno. None of these would generally be considered “children’s movies”, but I saw them...
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