Black Jack, a British film based on a children's novel by Leon Garfield, is an example of engaging storytelling at its best. A French vagabond named Black Jack (Jean Franval) kidnaps Tolly (Stephen Hirst), a young boy, and takes him on a picaresque adventure. Along the way they rescue Belle (Louise Cooper), a young girl who is being transported to an insane asylum. Tolly tutors her back to reality while they linger with a traveling fair.

Director Kenneth Loach whose previous films (Wednesday's Child and Kos) have dealt with problem children again explores some of the myths about mental illness. The acting in this eighteenth-century tale is top-notch and the up-tempo ending is both salutary and enchanting.