The Railway Children Return review – the classic family sequel stays on track | Film

JEnny Agutter inducted into the British Film Hall of Fame as Roberta or Bobbie, in the much-loved 1970 family classic The Railway Children, about three children forced by circumstances to move with their mother to a cottage in Yorkshire and experience adventures involving steam. the trains. She returned to play the mum in a 2000 TV movie version, and now Agutter is back as the original character, 40 years older, in this bubbly sequel imagining a new generation of railroad kids in 1944, a reboot crafted and co-written by producer Jemma Rodgers and directed by Morgan Matthews.

Perhaps it’s a little hampered in the way it revives and reimagines classic plot points, and there could be issues of historical authenticity. Would the US Army Military Police really have been authorized to arrest an underage British civilian and transport her in handcuffs across the country? But there’s plenty of fun channeling past classics such as Hue and Cry and Whistle Down the Wind.

Three children evacuated from wartime Manchester, Lily (Beau Gadsdon), Pattie (Eden Hamilton) and Ted (Zac Cudby) go looking for the exact same village where Roberta apparently stayed and is now a kind grandmother: her daughter ( Sheridan Smith) is the headmaster of the local school and has a somewhat fair-William-ish son called Thomas (Austin Haynes), whose father left in the RAF fighting the Germans. Fans of Railway Children can be forgiven for wondering if other characters from the original movie will be resurrected, or if we’ll find out if Bobbie really married Jim, grandson of the ‘Old Gentleman’ in the first tale, as it seemed. likely. Well, suffice it to say that we find that Bobbie became a staunch suffragette as a young woman, and for these reasons comes very close to the blasphemy of disagreeing with Winston Churchill. Now it looks like the family apparently has an old uncle, or great-uncle, played by Tom Courtenay, who is something of a quiet man in the War Office.

Kenneth Aikens (right) as Abe in The Railway Children Return. Photography: Jaap Buitendijk/StudioCanal

Lily, Pattie, and Ted roam around the place with their new friend Thomas, getting involved in scrapes with local kids who resent them, and they get to know peppery station master Richard, played by John Bradley. But the adults are aware of the tensions with the American military police who have a racist attitude towards the popular African American GIs in the village. This adult problem becomes a reality in the children’s lives when they find a wounded and trembling black American soldier hiding in one of the locomotives in a siding; it’s Abe (Kenneth Aikens), who sternly tells them that he’s on a secret mission and they shouldn’t tell anyone he’s there under any circumstances. Seriously, the four children fetch him food and provisions and agree to hide him in their house.

It’s a movie with a more savvy take on the real world than its 1970 ancestor, at least in part because it has child actors who are the same age as their characters. The now-legendary scene from the first film in which Bobbie sees her dad through the steam on the station platform – a scene that has become more iconic than its creators ever quite envisioned – is picked up and dubbed in a new dream that Lily has, in a much more serious context. And there are more shenanigans involving holding up signs for a passing train and making it stop. It’s a kind and ingenious homage to the innocent, good-natured spirit of the original.

The Return of the Children from the Railway will be released in cinemas on July 15.

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