British writer-director Charles Sturridge makes beautiful, stubbornly unhurried movies about the best and worst in human, animal, and even otherworldly nature. Set in World War II England, Sturridge's Lassie reaches back to the original 1943 movie and to Eric Knight's 1940 novel about the famously determined collie's obstacle-ridden trek through the North Country to rejoin the bereft young master, whose down-on-their-luck parents were forced to sell his best friend to pay for food. Deploying a stellar cast to mine the evergreen potential of poker-faced British proletarian waifs (Jonathan Mason), honest-to-God mums and dads (Samantha Morton and John Lynch), crusty old bluebloods (a happily mugging Peter O'Toole), blustery retainers (a very good Steve Pemberton), and kindly traveling players (Peter Dinklage), Sturridge spins a warm but persuasively unsparing tale of war's multiple displacements and the redeeming power of loyalty and love. Lassie puts its trust in kids to be grown up, and appeals honestly (minus the usual knowing winks) to grown-ups by returning them to a state of childlike wonderment.
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