Magazine article Screen International

'Swallows and Amazons': Review

Magazine article Screen International

'Swallows and Amazons': Review

Article excerpt

Dir. Philippa Lowthorpe. UK, 2016, 96 mins.

Retro British production Swallows And Amazons turns the tiller gently towards old-fashioned, gosh-golly, sandwiches-and-pop entertainment in a nostalgic adaptation of Arthur Ransome's beloved 1930 children's novel which spawned a series of sequels as well a film (1974), TV adaptation (1963), and several plays, most recently at the National Theatre (2011).

Writer Andrea Gibb has attempted to spice up the pre-WWII holiday adventures of two families in the picturesque Lake District by turning Uncle Jim (Rafe Spall) into spy who is being pursued by Russians baddies (including Andrew Scott), but this dinghy romp - casting back to an almost mythical, pre-War moment in time - is gentle going for today's bruising British multiplex, of more immediate appeal to grandparents and The Archers fans than the young children they'll be taking.

Destined for Christmas and bank holiday play on UK terrestrial channels, Swallows hits British cinemas at the tail end of the summer holidays. More recent films of its type - Nanny McPhee, or even the Narnia series - have jazzed up the nostalgia with special effects and the plots with more obvious thrills, so first-time feature director Philippa Lowthorpe is betting the BBC's bank on the audience which has made the theatrical version of The Railway Children such a success in London.

Certainly, she has assembled a fine cast of adult ballast for her five child leads. The always-gracious Kelly Macdonald is the loving mother whose husband has been posted to the Far East and who brings her brood for the summer holiday to stay with locals played by Jessica Hynes and Harry Enfield at Holly Howe Farm. …

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