Friday, 28 April 2017

Swallows and Amazons (2016)

Arthur Ransome's Swallows and Amazons was one of the favourite books of my childhood.  It was adapted to screen in 1974, with Ransome's low key tale of rambling childhood holidays in the Lake District, featuring lots of sailing and camping, being faithfully reproduced with very few changes from the text.

This more recent adaptation, on the other hand, recognises that Ransome's tale is probably a bit too low key and idyllic for modern audiences.  In the books, the four Walker siblings are very capable, get along with nary a cross word spoken between them, and their adventures are much more dramatic in their imaginations than they are in reality.  It's only at the end of the book that a dose of real life danger appears, when one of them witnesses a burglary.

In this version, that burglary becomes part of a much more prominent plotline involving international espionage, and the kids' relationship is much more fractious, with the kind of bickering and misadventures you might expect if you stuck four young people in one place for any length of time.

These story changes have both positives and negatives, I think.  The addition of the espionage storyline definitely adds more excitement, and acts to drive the story along in a much more purposeful manner.  On the other hand, I feel like the Amazons - a pair of local girls whom the Walker children befriend - get rather sidelined by the restructured narrative, which is a shame.

Overall though, it's a nice little movie that does a solid job of adapting an old family favourite for modern audiences.

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