There’s something cosy and comforting about “Swallows And Amazons”, the latest adaptation of Arthur Ransome’s celebrated novel of swashbuckling childhood adventure. An impeccable production combined with a wonderful cast give this film a timeless quality and watching it for the first time feels brand new and like revisiting an old favourite simultaneously.
When the Walker family arrive in the Lake District, their happy sailing escapades bring them into contact with the shifty and surly Jim Turner, aka ‘Captain Flint’. As they explore the lake and its island in their boat Swallow, they encounter the Blackett sisters and their boat Amazon. But when danger looms, the two tribes must put aside their rivalry and see off a more sinister foe.
Although there are some changes from the source novel, the film remains true to the outdoorsy, youthful spirit of adventure. It adds a meatier subplot about wartime espionage, although there’s little doubt over who the villains are thanks to the casting of Andrew Scott who, at this stage, reveals himself to be the villain of the piece simply by being on screen. Although the scenery of the Lake District is a beautiful backdrop, it’s the children who make the story work and its credit to them that it works so well given this was – for many of them – their first professional acting role. There’s great support from old hands Harry Enfield, Jessica Hynes, Kelly Macdonald and Rafe Spall but ultimately what you’ll take away from the film is a warm nostalgia for a rose-tinted view of the late 1930s and the freedoms of a childhood lived outdoors and away from constant supervision. Life may never have been like that, of course, but it doesn’t mean you won’t wish it still could be.