Film review: Swallows and Amazons (3 out of 5)

Swallows and Amazons was one of those children's books that always seemed to me to be of its time.

Swallows and Amazons
Swallows and Amazons

Written in 1930 and set a year earlier, it’s about an era that seems very alien now, when life was much simpler without any of the high tech that dominates a child’s waking hours these days.

Previous films and TV adaptations have generally stuck to the basic premise of the plot, a group of children enjoying the sheer fun of sailing and playing using just their imagination.

Sign up to our daily SussexWorld Today newsletter

So how would a 21st century version fare and how could it hold the audience of a young modern audience with different expectations?

Well this latest version keeps that innocence but ramps up the darker side that was in the original.

The plot involves four children and their mother who go to the Lake District for their summer holiday, while dad is in Hong Kong serving on a destroyer.

The kids set out in a small boat (the Swallow) to set up a camp on a remote island in a middle of one of the lakes.

There they meet two other children with their boat (Amazon) who say the island has been claimed by them.

Add a mysterious uncle and two other equally mysterious strangers and you have the basic plot.

However, director Philippa Lowthorpe manages to create good tension as well as elements of humour and the joy of being young, enjoying life in the open air.

There’s also good mix of talented adult cast and young newcomers.

We have Kelly Macdonald as the mum, Rafe Spall as the uncle and Andrew Scott as one of the strangers. But Jessica Hynes and Harry Enfield also add their experience.

Teddie-Rose Malleson-Allen, Dane Hughes, Bobby McCulloch and Orla Hill as the Walker children act like siblings and certainly hold their own in such a good British cast.

While the movie may not be remembered as a classic, it will certainly entertain a new generation of youngsters.

So rather than a story that is an anachronism, it definitely is a case of Swallows and Amazons forever.

Film details: Swallows and Amazons (PG) 97mins

Director: Philippa Lowthorpe

Starring: Kelly Macdonald, Andrew Scott, Rafe Spall

Screening courtesy of Horsham Capitol