Summary: Follow a group of children who are evacuated to a Yorkshire village during the Second World War, where they encounter a young soldier who, like them, is far away from home.
Cinema Release Dates: 15th September 2022 (Australia), 15th July 2022 (UK), 23rd September 2022 (USA)
VOD Release Dates: TBA
Country: USA, UK
Director: Morgan Matthews
Screenwriter: Daniel Brocklehurst, Jemma Rodgers
Cast: Jenny Agutter (Roberta ‘Bobbie’ Waterbury), KJ Aikens (Abe), Jessica Baglow (Angela), John Bradley (Richard), Tom Courtney (Uncle Walter), Zac Cudby (Ted), Gabriel Freilich (Military Police Officer Rouse), Beau Gadsdon (Lily), Eden Hamilton (Pattie), Austin Hayes (Thomas), Hugh Quarshie (General Harrison), Jospeh Richards (George Duckworth), Sheridan Smith (Annie), Oscar Wallwork (Jimmy), Hannah Wood (Miss Eckersley)
Running Time: 99 mins
Classification: PG (Australia), PG (UK), PG (USA)
OUR THE RAILWAY CHILDREN RETURN REVIEWS
David Griffiths’ The Railway Children Return Review:
Dave’s rating Out Of 5
Kyle McGrath’s The Railway Children Return Review:
The Railway Children Return is a family adventure film set in 1944 during World War 2. As regular bombings causes life in England’s cities to be increasingly perilous the three Watts children Lily (Beau Gadsdon), Pattie (Eden Hamilton) & Ted (Zac Cudby) are among a number of youths sent by their parents on a train to the countryside for safety. In the small Yorkshire village of Oakworth the three are fostered by the Waterbury family, matriarch Bobbie (Jenny Agutter), daughter Annie (Sheridan Smith) & grandson Thomas (Austin Haynes).
While scary at first the Watts children are enraptured by the welcoming community and settle pleasantly into their new home meeting local characters such as station master Richard Parks (John Bradley). One day while playing hide and seek the children stumble across a young injured African American soldier known as Abe (KJ Aikens) who at first taking advantage of the children’s naivety claiming to be on a secret mission quickly is outed as an under-age deserter fleeing his regiment due to racial persecution from his fellow soldiers. The children take it upon themselves to assist Abe in his attempts to avoid the military police and to escape back home to America.
This film has a refreshingly authentic feel with costume design by Dinah Collin and production design by Jeff Tessler both of whom have extensive experience with recreating English period pieces on screen. Although the railway plays more incidentally into the story there was something quaint in seeing this simpler village at a historic time and many small details I appreciated about its world building.
This film acts as a long term follow up to the 1970 children’s classic The Railway Children inspired by the classic novel by Edith Nesbit. Whereas that film told the tale of the Waterbury family in 1905 travelling to Yorkshire and this film is set nearly 40 years later it does still retain certain key elements. At it’s core are the selfless actions of the children as each story focuses on and their desire to help others coupled with a warm feeling of good family values.
Jenny Agutter returns to the role she first played in 1968 in a BBC television production of the story before being recast again for the 1970 movie. Her inclusion in this production is a positive however it must be said she feels like she hasn’t been given much to work with. The story of course focuses on a much younger generation however I do wish Agutter’s talents were better utilised here.
Speaking of the younger cast I found them delightful it this film. Hamilton, Cudby & Haynes are adorable while much of the heavy lifting is provided by Gadsdon as the older sibling who has had adult responsibilities thrust upon her early in life due to the war. Aikens as well gives his all as a black youth dealing with racism in a role perhaps much heavier than was necessary.
The story is at its best when it follows the adventures of the children being children showing resilience in a world bigger than they can fully comprehend. This was the strength of the original film and it’s why 50 years later it remains a timeless favourite on par with similar movies like Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory and The Love Bug. While in the age of the MCU and Pixar films one might think child audiences wouldn’t have the patience for slower paced films however I was pleased to see the younger members of my screening greatly enjoying this type of movie.
What damages the film is it’s insistence on dealing with the much heavier subject matter of racism and bigotry within the military. It is made so much worse as this is handled in such a blunt and hamfisted fashion that the message of the film seems to be “all white American soldiers during World War 2 were racist and the British were absolutely not”. Something preposterous when it is displayed as such an absolute and I feel is frankly offensive to World War 2 veterans.
The depiction of the military police in this movie seems more designed in such a way as to work as allegory for contemporary social issues on race and the police. While racism was and still is a serious issue a ‘Railway Children’ movie made for kids doesn’t need to have disturbing scenes of black people being beaten to a pulp in the street for the crime of socialising with white women.
I enjoyed much of this movie, a very beautiful and relaxing film it’s simpler first half and even the matter of the children wanting to help a young soldier in need were welcome. However it’s shifting in tones to much darker territory only for it to shift again at breakneck speed for a happy resolution damage the film’s potential to be a worthy follow up to such a beloved classic.
Average Subculture rating Out Of 5
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