This adaptation of Arthur Ransome’s classic children’s novel is not an easy movie to dislike, imbued as it is with a top-drawer cast, terrific cinematography and infectious level of sweetness. All that said, however, it is also gentle and twee to the point of near-inertia at times, and what some may find to be a rousing toast to a child’s imagination, others may find a soporific slog.
The Walker family are on holiday in the Lake District, and as the kids head to camp at an island on the lake, they find two sisters, the Blacketts, also vying for ownership of the island. What’s more, with World War II looming, the Blacketts’ mysterious uncle (Rafe Spall) finds himself pursued by Soviet spy Lazlow (Andrew Scott), inevitably coming to a head at the very same island.
Purists of Ransome’s text may take umbrage with the countless changes made to the source material – namely the introduction of a wartime context and spy subplot completely absent from the written version – but the film does crucially retain the most important aspect; a sense of wonder and childlike awe.
Again, it may simply prove too inoffensive for some audiences, but there’s a joyous charm to it all the same, the visuals pop, and the cast – especially the youngsters – are nothing if not incredibly genuine throughout. It’s a difficult film to outright dislike, albeit not one that consistently sustains interest either; it’s rather long-winded for what it is, even at just 96 minutes in length.
There may not be much of a lasting impression, but it’s perfectly fine as a warm, fluffy mid-afternoon Netflix jaunt on a Sunday afternoon, even if that’s it. You won’t be talking about Swallows and Amazons in a week, but you probably won’t resent the time spent with it either.
Swallows and Amazons is in UK cinemas now