By Abigail Chandler
Based on the beloved children’s book by Arthur Ransome, Swallows and Amazons centres on the four Walker children: John, Susan, Tatty and Roger, aka the Swallows, as they holiday with their mother in the Lake District and war with the Blackett sisters, aka the Amazons, over a deserted island. The Swallows grow increasingly suspicious of the Amazons’ uncle, Jim ‘Captain Flint’ Turner, who they’re convinced is a pirate. The reality turns out to be far more dangerous and exciting.
There are some thrilling additions to the British classic in this new adaptation. Flint, a grumpy writer in the original, becomes a (still grumpy) spy, with a couple of Russians hot on his heels, one of whom is played by Sherlock’s Andrew Scott, who manages to tone down his Moriarty menace just enough to not completely terrify the kids in the audience.
The leads are all played brilliantly by actors who, in the case of most of them, have never acted on screen before. It’s especially touching watching John, played by Dane Hughes, as he takes on the responsibility of being the eldest sibling, while Teddie-Rose Malleson-Allen is great in the key role of eternal optimist Tatty.
Despite the addition of a couple of action sequences involving a train and a sea-plane, the most exciting scenes are the ones that are the most faithful to the book, such as when the children race each other out on the lake. This film will leave you itching to climb into a boat and feel the waves beneath you.
It’s also beautiful to look at, with sweeping shots of the stunning lakes and the mythical-looking woodland of the Lake District and Yorkshire that’ll make you want to explore the areas for yourself. Swallows and Amazons is an innocent slice of entertainment; it’s a nostalgic escape to a bygone England where kids could roam free and parents (represented here by the luminous Kelly Macdonald as Mrs Walker) were strangely relaxed about their kids sailing and camping alone for days. If you plan on taking children to see this film, beware – they’ll demand a camping trip before you’ve left the cinema.