I'm not quite sure if I should understand the film as a coming-of-age interpretation (the lead seemed way too old for the role) or some comment on the English social classes that might have started to disappear apart after WW2 even faster than before or maybe Lean was just fascinated with the story. The movie is quite an enjoyable watch and holds enough tension to keep you interested through the rather hairy twists from the original book.
Absurdly, I felt that it have a TV-movie quality to it, the framing was rather unspectacular. There are some extremely beautiful shots in the beginning where the boy is running along the sea. Generally, the inside stuff didn't work too well for me.
Alec Guinness and Jean Simmons worked really well in their support roles.