Swallows and AmazonsCultureCinemaMovie reviews
While perfect for children, Philippa Lowthorpe’s revised version of Ransome’s classic family tale is a joy for adults too, leading the viewer into a world of escapades and make-believe, recalling memories of awe and wonder that we all carry in our hearts. Besides, it’s simply a good movie, with captivating dialogue and a storyline and plot that are compelling and fun.
Taking place in the summer of 1935, the set and costumes are well conceived, combining historical accuracy with idyllic fictional style, and the landscape cinematography is gorgeous. Opening with a little boy playing with toy boats, an Agatha Christie-esque train scene introduces the Walkers (along with appearances of mysterious, sinister men that the children insist are pirates) and the adventure begins. At the family’s country home, on a sailboat called Swallow, the young crew appoint themselves Captain and ship’s officers, embarking on a voyage of imagination and suspense, one that soon holds real danger. Meanwhile they meet with hostile “pirates” in the form of two girls called the Amazons, and an enchanting story unfolds.
The original book’s writer, Arthur Ransome, based Jim Turner (nicknamed Captain Flint) on himself, and was in real life suspected by MI5 of being a Russian spy or double agent, which is ironic considering the wholesomeness of his writing. The inclusion of such personas as Turner, played with debonair accomplishment by Rafe Spall, gives the story its suspenseful edge, while the winsome and engaging interaction between the child characters is priceless. It is the children who carry the movie: as the young Walkers, Dane Hughes, Teddie-Rose Malleson-Allen and Orla Hill are exceptional, along with Seren Hawkes and Hannah Jayne Thorp who are superb Amazons. All the actors are first-rate, including Kelly Macdonald as an appealing Mrs Walker and Andrew Scott as a convincingly shrewd villain.
Although at first seeming a little slow-paced for our present-day high-tech attention spans, the film’s narrative soon commands concentration and the excellence of the writing, production, cinematography and acting delight and engross. Swallows and Amazons is charming, moving, engaging and entertaining.
Swallows and Amazons is released nationwide on 19th August 2016.
Watch the trailer for Swallows and Amazons here: