Sara Crewe lives a spoiled life in India with a devoted, doting father, until World War I intervenes, and he enlists, sending Sara off to boarding school in New York to keep her safe. There she must adjust, whereas before she had free rein to do as she pleased, now she must submit to rules and regulations that she doesn’t understand. And, most difficult for her, she must keep her imagination in check. But Sara isn’t a selfish, “poor little rich girl”, she is bright and kind, and soon makes friends with most of the other girls, from those in her class to the scullery maid. She is also the only one who can really get through to Lottie as they have both lost their mothers.
But then comes the news from the front, Sara’s father has been reported dead, and the British government have seized control of his money and property. There is no one to pay the bills, and Head Mistress Miss Minchin is not at all happy. She had been delighted to accept Capt. Crewe’s money, but had always been unhappy with Sara’s flights on fancy. Now that there is no money coming in she is determined to make something back, so she puts Sara to work as along side Becky the scullery maid, and keeps her in poverty, with constant threats of the police and living on the streets.
This is first and foremost a children’s film so a lot of the story-telling is simplistic rather than complicated. Characters are stereotypes rather than developed individuals. But none of that matters, because it all works so well as a whole. Throughout the film Sara tells stories of India, complete with Indian mythology in the form of her version of the Prince Rama story. And these flashes of colour and fantasy add so much to the story. But as a whole it is the look and feel of this film that makes it so entertaining. The cinematography is wonderful, and so it is no surprise to learn that it was nominated for an Oscar in this area, A Little Princess was also nominated for Best Art Direction-Set Decoration
It is a beautiful film, and while it isn’t perfect it still works very well. With some great child actors, especially the star, Liesel Matthews. Two thumbs up.