Swallows and Amazons

In Films by Janet Leigh

It’s the kind of summer adventure every kid dreams of. Their own private island where they are the masters; danger looming at every corner and they must heroically save the day and defend their turf. Swallows and Amazons is a step inside a child’s mind where reality becomes a blurry concept when imagination takes hold.

Something is amiss the minute the Walker children begin their summer holidays with a train ride to the country. A mysterious man – with two men on his tail – slips into their carriage and rattles their bones sparking fears of a pirate foe in young Tatty Walker’s (Teddie-Rose Malleson-Allen) mind. As the story unravels and the children sail independently to a small isolated island to camp, we discover there is something much more sinister going on behind the pirate enemies they’ve concocted. Spy Captain Flint (Rafe Spall) has landed himself in hot waters and the Walker children seem insistent on dipping their toe in.

Swallows and Amazon is bursting with adventure. There is something so satisfying about the children’s determination and self-sufficiency as they attempt to survive for the first time without the caring and watchful eye of their mother. Their need to prove themselves drives the story forward as they face obstacle after obstacle leading them to find two new friends – or is it allies? – Peggy and Nancy Blackett (Hannah Jayne Thorp and Seren Hawkes) on this wild sea ride.

Director Phillipa Lowthorpe takes novelist’s Arthur Ransome’s fantastic blend of characters – executed well by the actors who play them – and navigates them through the quest, ending with something that is both charming and fresh.

However, despite the captivating mix of intrigue and adventure, there is no sight of who the movie is catering for. Set in the 1930s, there is a certain dated quality that a modern PG audience is unlikely to identify with – enjoy, yes, but relate to…? Questionable. A nine-year old brimming with excitement over a period drama is hard to imagine and while an older generation may be swayed by the Famous Five, Downton-esque vibe it brings, is it enough to bring butts to seats?

Throwing that to one side, once the butts are firmly seated, audiences of all ages will find themselves drawn in by the alluring tale. Swallows and Amazons may feel slightly longwinded while we figure out what the real focus of the movie is but it is definitely enchanting.

A stunning watch, though perhaps not made for big screen. Rather it’s one of those perfect gems you stumble across one lazy weekend and devour indulgently on the sofa.