Review of 'Swallows and Amazons'

swallows_and_amazons.jpg In the summer of 1935 Mrs Walker (Kelly Macdonald) and her five children travel from their home in Portsmouth to the Lake District for a holiday away from the city. On the train a man enters their cabin as he runs away from two mysterious assailants and promptly jumps off. When they arrive in the Lake District the four older children (John, Susan, Tatty and Roger) are bored but eventually manage to convince their mother to let them take a boat, the “Swallow”, on a camping trip to an island in the nearby lake. On the island they quickly realise there is another group of children, “The Amazons”, who want them to leave. The two groups strike up a friendly rivalry but the mysterious man from the train is living on a boat on the lake…and has a gun.

It is no wonder that this is such a popular story, based on the book by Arthur Ransome with both a television adaptation and an earlier film in 1974. The film is a joy to behold as it manages to capture the free spirit of youth yet never condescends. The children are not perfect and this is made painfully clear particularly with the older son John's (Dane Hughes) troubling relationship with younger sibling Roger (Bobby McCulloch) who he has little patience with. The younger daughter “Tatty” (Teddie-Rose Malleson-Allen) lives completely in a fantasy land that draws the others in…Pirates ho!

The young actors in “Swallows and Amazons” all do a stellar job, perfectly convincing in their somewhat demanding, and physical, roles. The cast is largely unknowns but does feature a somewhat subdued performance by the comic Harry Enfield as Mr. Jackson.

When we recently visited Cumbria we were shown some of the beautiful places where the film was filmed on Coniston Water (where the island is located) and told how important the story is to generations of the British people, so we were interested to see the film. Yes, it has to be said, the scenery in the film is breathtaking but it is the spirit of the film that is so absolutely wonderful, bringing out the child in all of us.


Review Date: 2019-01-26

Directed by: Philippa Lowthorpe

Studio: BBC Films

Year: 2016

Length: 96 minutes

Genre: Melodrama