Black Jack

Following a long stretch of TV work, proletarian director Ken Loach (The Angels’ Share, The Wind That Shakes the Barley) returned to the big screen with this 1979 children’s adventure, adapted from a novel by Leon Garfield and set in 1750 Yorkshire. The title character, a giant Frenchman, narrowly escapes the gallows and sets off across the countryside with a young lad; together they become entangled with a girl whose father has dispatched her to a “private madhouse” so she won’t disrupt her older sister’s engagement to a nobleman. Loach’s gray, grimy realism makes the film, and as the plot thickens, this turns out to be not so far removed from his usual working-class concerns; it’s that rare children’s film that cleaves not between old and young but between rich and poor.