Not many films capture the essence of childhood innocence like A Kid for Two Farthings. At first, I mistook it for a classic live-action Disney film, but it’s not affiliated with Disney whatsoever. The film is based on a novel of the same name by Wolf Mankowitz, and was helmed by Academy Award winning director Carol Reed. A Kid for Two Farthings is not known as one of Reed’s best films and I’m having a hard time understanding exactly why it received such negative criticism. The enchanting story, filled with heart and whimsy, is far from being a failure.
Set in post-war London’s East End, specifically Petticoat Lane, the film focuses on the story of a delightful little boy named Joe (Jonathan Ashmore) and his diverse, overpopulated community. Joe’s neighbor, Mr. Kadinsky (David Kossof), tells him that unicorns have the magical ability to grant wishes and Joe becomes infatuated with getting his hands on one of the mystical creatures. Soon after listening to Mr. Kadinsky’s story, Joe uses his savings to purchase a unicorn, but it’s actually a baby goat with a crooked growth in the middle of its head that resembles a small horn. While most children would use their magical unicorn’s powers to grant selfish wishes, Joe is more concerned with helping out his loved ones. I’m not a fan of child actors in general, but Jonathan Ashmore is absolutely adorable and tremendously talented. It’s a shame that this is the only film he would ever act in.
As an adult, I really do appreciate the emphasis on the importance of imagination in this real-life fairytale. Imagination is what makes Joe’s childhood in the congested slums of London better and it gives him hope during a time of struggle. Joe is the only child that appears in the entire film and he participates in very adult activities. He attends evening wrestling matches, assists adults with their errands, and is involved with very grown-up situations, but his unicorn and Mr. Kadinsky’s tales keep him young and innocent by feeding into his imagination and allowing it to blossom.
Watching this flick for the first time was quite a memorable experience and it reminded me of the significance of creativity and fantasy in my own life. No matter how old we are, when times are rough, a little make-believe usually makes things a whole lot better. A Kid for Two Farthings should be widely known as a classic for all ages instead of being buried away with all the other forgotten children’s films.
A Kid for Two Farthings is currently streaming on Hulu Plus.