cheeky young characters of Arthur Ransome’s YA outdoors adventures were sort of
like Tom, Huck, and Becky, if they had a taste for tea and crumpets. Every
year, they summered in the Lake District, where they would descend into a state
of Lord of the Flies barbarism, but
always reverted back in time for their afternoon biscuits. They also try to
foil the plans of a ruthless cell of Red Russian spies in Philippa Lowthorpe’s
faithfully nostalgic adaptation of Swallows
and Amazons (trailer
which screens during the 2017 New York International Children’s Film Festival.
Walker is in Hong Kong tending to the business of empire. Mrs. Walker talks
stern, but she is happy to let the Walker brood run rampant, courting death
unattended. John Walker is the oldest and the four and therefore supposedly the
responsible one. Two girls followed and then a relentlessly bratty young
brother. (FYI, the second sister is called Tatty, but her name was spelled with
an “i” in the books, leading to all kinds of awkwardness for modern classroom
the anti-social Captain Flint and the two Russian spies barged into the Walkers’
train compartment during the trip up, but Mrs. Walker pays them little mind.
However, as the Walker kids explore the terrain surrounding Lake Windermere,
their paths cross with those of Flint, as well as the devious Lazlow and his
henchman. Initially, Flint becomes John’s nemesis, but he will eventually
conclude the supposed travel writer is one of the good guys. They will also
contend with the Blackett Sisters for primacy on what they like to call Walker Island.
Unfortunately, the townies are better sailors than John and therefore stand a
better chance of maneuvering their boat, the Amazon around the Walker’s
is refreshing to see a film that unambiguously identifies the Russian spies as
the villains. In this case, S&A earns
bonus points for casting Andrew Scott, Sherlock’s
Jim Moriarty, as Lazlow. However, the tone of the film definitely skews towards
the youngster end of the spectrum. Frankly, a lot of those hopelessly dated
Disney films Kurt Russell made as a kid have a more mature tone than S&A.
it looks great. Cinematographer Julian Court and production designer Suzie
Davies give it a classy period look and texture. As a result, it is definitely
more cinematic than your average PBS Masterpiece
production. Scott and Kelly Macdonald also soldier on like old pros as
Lazlow and Mrs. Walker.
As a junior 39
Steps, S&A will probably
charm its 6-12 target demo. It might also make parents wistful for a simpler
time when they could turn their grade school children loose for unsupervised overnight
sailing expeditions, without anyone lecturing them on their parental judgment.
Recommended for young viewers (who are never too young to learn about the clear
and present Russian threat), Swallows and
Amazons screens this Saturday (3/4) and Sunday the 12th, at the
SVA Theatre, as part of this year’s NYICFF.
Labels: Andrew Scott, British Cinema, NYICFF '17