Swallows and Amazons

Swallows and Amazons

Sitting in your arm chair in front of a log fire in a post Christmas haze, you may already be dreaming about the Summer ahead: running around bare-foot on a beach somewhere healthy and in top physical condition.

As a happy compromise you might want to watch other people running around having adventures, while you enjoy another comforting glass of mulled wine. If so you will be looking for a nice traditional film to watch full of wholesome family fun – and luckily for you the new version of Swallows and Amazons is now out on DVD so you don’t even have to struggle to the cinema!

Although this film from director Philippa Lowthorpe (The Other Boleyn Girl, Call the Midwife) is a modern interpretation of the Arthur Ransome book, it retains the period feel of the book and the original film – admittedly with the additional twist of  bit of pre-war adult espionage in the Enid Blyton Famous Five tradition which is not in the original book!

If you don’t know it, Swallows and Amazons is the story of the Walker family who go on holiday to the Lake District. They borrow a small sailing dinghy ( Swallow) and head to an island in the middle of the lake. Their mother ( a woman with nerves of steel I presume) allows her four children ( the oldest is 12 , the youngest 6 or 7) not only to sail unaccompanied,  but also to camp out overnight on the island. So far the best possible fun for children, a middle class parental anxiety attack for us 21st century urbanite adults.

Once you have got over your panic attack and put yourself in the mindset of family life in Britain in the early 1930s, you can relax with your children and enjoy the adventures of John, Susan, Titty and Roger as they lose their provisions overboard,  try to survive by foraging and discover the island has already been claimed – by pirates!

And the pirates – Nancy ( played by the rather wonderful Seren Hawkes) and Peggy want their island back and they take to the water in their boat Amazon to reclaim it.

The cast includes Raph Spall as Andrew Scott, the grumpy man on the houseboat with a SHHH secret – who also turns out to be Nancy and Peggy’s uncle) and Harry Enfield as the farmer who lends the Walker children his boat for the holiday.

The rather lovely Kelly Macdonald plays the children’s very easy going mother.

The nostalgic innocent tone is little different from the 1974 film version – (where Virginia McKenna played the mother). But the sub plot of Uncle Andrew being an undercover British spy certainly adds some drama – and some chase sequences which the original did not have.

Although I am a purist when it comes to film adaptations – it is luckily a long time since I read the books over and over again as a child and the added drama didn’t spoil the film for me!

It’s beautifully shot, a great advert for the Lake District, an easy watch for all ages groups and I hope will bring a new generation of children to reading Arthur Ransome’s series of adventure stories!


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