In the absence of a strong parental figure, young Phillipe (Henrey), the 8-year-old son of a French ambassador, has come to revere household butler Baines (Richardson), his trusted caretaker and confidante, but reviles Mrs. Baines (Dresdel), his shrewish, scolding wife. When Baines comes under suspicion for murder, however, the boy's loyalties are tested.
Told from a child's point of view, Reed's absorbing adaptation of Graham Greene's short story follows the relationship between a lonely boy (whose pet plaything is, alas, a garden snake) and his caring gentleman domestic. Richardson and Dresdel are marvelous as well-heeled embassy servants whose marriage is empty and bloodless, and whose staircase squabble over Baines's lover Julie (Morgan) results in tragedy. Fusing elements of romance, drama,and suspense, Reed expertly portrays adult events filtered through the eyes and ears of a child. By all means, pay tribute to this "Idol."