Faithfully adapted from Katherine Paterson’s classic 1977 children’s novel and directed by Rugrats and The Simpsons producer Gabor Csupo, Bridge to Terabithia is light years from the saccharine, sanitised and simplistic cinema that is often forced upon children and adolescents.
Loner Jesse Aarons and new girl Leslie Burke form a friendship due to their shared imagination and outsider status at school. They create the fantasy world of Terabithia, generated by minimal yet effective CGIs, where they go to resolve their real life issues. The entire cast of mostly young performers excel but Josh Hutcherson (Little Manhattan) as Jesse and AnnaSophia Robb (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) as Leslie are superb.
Csupo has created an incredibly authentic representation of early adolescence filled with the excitement of friendship and discovery but also the loneliness and insecurities. The portrayal of the carry-on effects of bullying is particularly commendable and the film handles death and the resulting grief in a manner that is more mature and restrained than many films aimed at adult audiences. Like the original novel, Bridge to Terabithia does not shy away from tackling heavy issues and by doing so treats it young target audience with the integrity that they deserve.
Originally appeared in The Big Issue, No. 280, 2007