Do you want to make your summer days even warmer without getting sunburned? Then we suggest you go to the cinema to check out “The Railway Children Return“. The air conditioning will provide you with the necessary coolness while the delightful, touching and beautiful film from director Morgan Matthews (“X+Y”) will fill your heart with joy and warmth.
Matthews takes you back to Manchester, where Lily (Beau Gadsdon), Pattie (Eden Hamilton) Ted (Zac Cudby) have to flee their hometown due to the war. After an emotional goodbye with their mum and a nerve-wracking train ride, they arrive in Oakworth, Yorkshire, where Roberta ‘Bobbie’ Waterbury (Jenny Agutter), their new foster-grandmother, ended up forty years ago.
She now resides there with her daughter Annie (Sheridan Smith) and grandson Thomas (Austin Haynes). What used to be a family of three (after Annie’s husband had to leave for war) now becomes one of six. To try and forget the war, Annie teaches the kids the little joys in life. From collecting fresh eggs to making bread and from goofing around to discovering new places.
However, forgetting the war becomes even more complicated when they find a young, wounded black American soldier. According to himself, Abe (Kenneth Aikens) is on a secret mission, but soon it turns out that he deserted his soldiers following his racist treatment by the US Military Police.
To help him back on his feet, the children decide to secretively provide him with food, supplies and shelter in their own home. However, the longer the war goes on, the harder it becomes to keep Abe hidden from the outside world. Then one day, a soldier comes knocking on their door…
Those who have seen the mini-series “The Railway Children” (1968), the 1970’s “The Railway Children”, and/or the TV movie from 2000 will recognize a very familiar face. Agutter returns to The Railway Children world, and this time as the caring grandmother. However, apart from her brief appearances, the link between “The Railway Children Return” and the previous works is almost non-existent. So why did the filmmaker decide to make this long-awaited sequel now and in that particular way? We have no idea, but that doesn’t mean it was a wrong decision.
While the storyline from Daniel Brocklehurst and Jemma Rodgers is a bit too predictable and straightforward, the young cast does an impeccable job of keeping the film alive and making you forget the predictability.
Gadsdon (“Censor”, “The Girl in the Spider’s Web”) brings a highly grown-up performance to this movie as well as a lot of charm, playfulness and presence. She shines exceptionally bright and is undoubtedly an actress you need to keep an eye on. Cudby adds a lot of cheekiness and fun to “The Railway Children Return”, and it’s very hard to believe that this is his first full-length feature.
The same goes for Hamilton. While looking at her lively, vibrant and uplifting performance, you wouldn’t be able to tell that “The Railway Children Return” is her acting debut. Yes, these young actors and actresses make a beautiful on-screen family.
Agutter (“Sometimes Always Never”, “Queen of the Desert”) and Smith (“Funny Girl”, “The Huntsman: Winter’s War”) complete the family with beautiful, uplifting and emotional performances without overshadowing the young actors. While Aikens is doing everything he can to keep Abe’s strongness, ferociousness and fighting spirit alive, his performance sadly isn’t powerful or in-depth enough to deliver the important topics and messages.
Apart from the excellent acting performances, there’s also the stunning cinematography by Kit Fraser (“The Phantom of the Open”, “Eternal Beauty”). Most of the adventures occur in the lovely and bright countryside and a gorgeous, traditional farmhouse. Because of these beautiful, authentic settings, every scene oozes vibrancy, openness and life.
Despite the lack of connection with the original work and the predictable storyline, “The Railway Children Return” is still a perfect Sunday afternoon film. This is thanks to the many shenanigans, funny and ecstatic moments, the captivating and highly talented cast and the stunningly shot scenes.
15th July 2022
THE QUICK SELL
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.