A Kid for Two Farthings

PG¦ Blu-ray, DVD

British director Carol Reed achieved a certain amount of respect for helming a number of films, including Trapeze, Oliver!, and of course The Third Man starring Orson Welles.

But he directed this fascinating British curiosity, released in 1955, with an intriguing cast that included Celia Johnson, Diana Dors and Sid James, set in London’s East End.

boom reviews A Kid for Two Farthings
Mmmm I love stew, what kind is it again mommy?...

Petticoat Lane Market, a vibrant community full of characters from around the world, selling their wares. Living in the heart of it is six-year-old Joe (Jonathan Ashmore), under the roof of local tailor Mr Kardinsky (David Kossoff), with his mother Joanna (Johnson). Her husband, Joe’s father, is out in South Africa trying to earn their fortune, but it’s been years since his return.

Kardinsky is like a surrogate father to Joe, telling him far-fetched stories; one of which is about unicorns, and their magical powers, which Joe’s fascinated with. He decides that he must have one, because it would help all those around him, including body builder-turned-wrestler Sam (Joe Robinson) who needs luck in the ring and in love.

And it just so happens that Joe soon comes across a unicorn, which takes the shape of a kid goat, with one horn growing, that he believes will be the answer to all their problems. But can a kid goat be magical?

boom reviews  A Kid for Two Farthings
I though you said we were shopping for doors, diana?!

Although set in London’s East End, Reed’s film has a fantastical look and feel about it; it is a locale that looks far similar to a neighbourhood in NYC, with jazz floating in the air and neon lights burning bright at night, rather than E1.

And the fantasy element continues with its fascination for unicorns, as well as the theatrical world of wrestling.

It’s strange as at first the film feels as if it’s playing homage to De Sica’s The Bicycle Thief, as this young, street urchin traverses the urban landscape in search of a solution to help change his life.

But then Reed’s film delves into the world of both body building and wrestling, as well as the personal life of Sam and his sort of fiancée Sonia, played by Dors, featuring his own fantasy storyline of a diamond ring for her finger.

And as if that wasn’t enough, you have story spinner Kardinsky, who pines for a trouser press, to make his life a whole lot easier.

In fact there’s so much going on, it really shouldn’t work, as busy and downright bonkers as it is. But it has an undeniable charm and magic to it, much of it down to the performance of the young Ashmore, in what would turn out to be his one and only screen performance.

It is a film that feels ahead of its time, almost as a precursor to films such as E.T., with its heady mix of child-like wonder and fantasy. It also has the audacity to have an ending that may well reduce you to tears, as gut-wrenching and heartfelt as it is.

A Kid for Two Farthings is unlike any British film of its time, or after it for that matter, with Reed delivering an all out original, that looks really impressive with this 4K restoration, that much like unicorns themselves, is just as far-fetched, unbelievable and enchanting.

we give this four out of five