Acting upon positive reviews about the original (1970) production, I watched that version with great expectations. I liked it all right but thought its direction was a bit dated, particularly the 1960s-style "cartoon" music for the antics of Albert Perks. Jenny Agutter was so lovely as Roberta that, for me, she stole every scene she was in, which was most of the movie! In short, the film was enjoyable enough but not exactly my cup of tea.
Then I began watching the 2000 remake, and it more than corrected any flaws that plagued the earlier effort. What a perfectly conceived realisation it is! The cast is superior to the original actors, from top to bottom, and the direction is innovative, sensitive, and memorably touching throughout. Rarely have I seen child actors who were so believable. Some of Phyl's lines were delivered so wittily by the lisping Clare Thomas that I found myself laughing aloud time and time again. Jenny Agutter is even better as the mother than she was as Bobbie -- and that is saying quite a lot.
The photography is marvelous, and the nascent romance between Bobbie and Jim is utterly convincing. I was so pleased that they did not kiss, only exchanged mailing addresses. That was MUCH more authentic for the time period than most of today's directors would have handled it. I loved this presentation of The Railway Children from beginning to end, as there is not a false step to be seen!