The Railway Children Return ⭐️⭐️⭐️ Review by Andrea Carnevali
A group of children 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. Out in cinemas now.
This is officially a sequel of the original British classic from 52 years ago, but the story itself can really stand of its own and you certainly don’t need to have seen the previous film (nor any of the iterations of the original story) in order to follow what’s going on.
The only real connection to The Railway Children is the presence of Jenny Agutter, who had previous played Bobbie both in the BBC serial from 1968 and the film from 1970. She also played her mum in the adaptation for ITV in 2000.
Over half a century later she reprises the role of Bobbie, now a grandmother, as the story is set in 1944 in the threatening shadow of the second World War. Fans of the original are likely to get a little emotional as Bobbie at some point, when asked by her daughter “Do you remember arriving, mum?”, she murmurs “It’s like it was yesterday”.
Beyond those slight connections to the past (let’s be honest, Jenny Agutter is hardly in it and her role in inconsequential to the plot), this is just an excuse to cash in on that sense of nostalgia for classic stories from the past.
Despite the time jump from Edwardian times to WW2, the story follows some of the same beats from the original: this time three children who are evacuated from Manchester to a Yorkshire village in order to be kept safe for possible bombing. They are fostered by Bobbie, her daughter (Sheridan Smith), and her grandson (Austin Haynes).
During their time here they come across a kid named Abe, a black US army soldier who had signed up at the age of 14 to follow in the footsteps of his brother into war, but eventually defected after a racist attack by his own group.
Potentially there’s a lot of interesting themes and threads here, but the film keeps things rather light and dare-I-say a bit superficial. The racist subplot is clumsily handled and it feels more like an afterthought, but the rest of the story, albeit predictable, is still rather charming and has a nice old-fashion quality to it, both in its look and its pace: a refreshing and welcome break from most the latest family offerings out there.
The cinematography around the Yorkshire countryside is beautiful and gives a lovely idyllic feel to the world around the children, in contrast with the war happening around them.
It is a sweet and innocent enough film, though probably a bit too quiet and discreet and in the end not very memorable. It’s hard to see how it’ll manage to find an audience with all those loud Marvel films, the new Minions and The Sea Beast sweeping across all media.
As we came out of our screening my son started asking me all sorts of questions about the war. For that alone, it was worth the trip.
Andrea Carnevali is a Bafta winning film maker who lives in Chiswick.
The Railway Children Return is out in cinemas now.
See all Andrea’s film reviews here: Film reviews by Andrea Carnevali
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