The film Swallows and Amazons, based on the first book in English author Arthur Ransome’s kids book series by the same name, had its U.S. premier at the New York International Children’s Film Festival last weekend. It is a Boxcar Children meets Treasure Island story fraught with pirates, Russian spies, and everyday dangers of the great outdoors.
After their father leaves, the four Walker children decide to spend their vacation camping out on an unexplored island off the coast of the lake where they hole up every summer. Borrowing the inn-keeper’s sailboat, Swallow, the two boys and two girls voyage out alone. What they don’t realize is this undiscovered island is not so undiscovered. Before long, they find themselves at war with the Amazons, two girls from town who have claimed the island as their own. It is their uncle that causes the real intrigue here, though. Is he a pirate? A spy? Who are those mysterious men following him around? More importantly, is he a good-guy or a bad-guy?
Children ages six and up will love this film. The siblings vary in age enough to give every child a protagonist to look up to. The sense of danger that the Swallows and Amazons create through play is given just as much attention and drama as the true life-and-death danger of Uncle Jim’s secrets and the spies that trail him. Adults will also enjoy this movie. It’s a true family film. You may recognize some of your favorite actors from other British movies and television:
Rafe Spall plays Uncle Jim Turner, the mysterious man who lives on his houseboat and occasionally visits his two nieces, the Amazons. He also has a parrot he’s trained to say, “They turned me into a parrot!” You’ll know Rafe Spall from the Christmas episode of Black Mirror, Hot Fuzz, and Shaun of the Dead.
Kelly Macdonald plays the mother, Mrs. Walker. Watching after her brood of five kids (including a baby) after her husband left, she has faith that her kids will be fine alone on the island. You’ve seen this Scottish actress in a slew of things, including Black Mirror (the one with the bees), Trainspotting, and even Boardwalk Empire.
Andrew Scott plays the main baddie, Lazlov. It’s not a far cry from his Moriarty without the craziness. Aside from Sherlock, you may have seen him in the recent films Denial, Victor Frankenstein, and James Bond’s Spectre. Though, the little-known TV show My Life in Film is a favorite of mine.
Jessica Hynes and Harry Enfield play the inn-keepers. You’ll recognize Hynes from Spaced, Twenty Twelve and W1A, and her own show Up the Women. She’s also been in three episodes of Doctor Who. Enfield is a comedian who had his own TV shows in the 90s. He’s had reoccurring roles in Skins and Bad Eduction, and played Dirk Gently in the radio adaptation.
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