Wilson, after seeing an early screening of Dustbin Baby, said that it was the best film adaptation of any of her works. Haig said that the film was his favourite of his summer projects, saying "it was a terrific story and very touchingly done. I think Juliet Stevenson was very funny and moving in it". Critics also responded positively. In an article in The Times David Chater awarded the programme the TV choice of the day, describing it as "tremendous", and "the wonderful surprise of Christmas". The film was described in The Telegraph as a "rare treat", as it is "something that teenagers and parents can watch together". This view was shared by producer Anne Brogan, who said that the film was something "that parents and children will enjoy watching while giving them much to talk about". Tom Sutcliffe, writing for The Independent, said Stevenson was "good as a woman who was far more comfortable in the past than the present", and that "her performance was more than matched by that of Dakota Blue Richards as April, mostly banked-down and wary but prone to sudden wild flashes of anger". He criticised some of the "implausibilities", saying that the plot was, at times, "a lot kinder than the world might have been", but said that "it still made you well up with its final reconciliation" with emotion that had been "honestly earned". Euan Ferguson, in an article in The Guardian, said that the film "hooked and haunted", and added that Stevenson played Marion like "a kind of updated" Jean Brodie. During its initial run on BBC One, Dustbin Baby was watched by 2.3 million viewers, giving it a 15.4% share of the audience.
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