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Film Review: The Railway Children Return

2 August 22 words: Susan and Elinor Barsby

Somehow, the railway children have returned... But should they have? Mother-daughter team Susan and Elinor Barsby find out...

Director: Morgan Matthews
Starring: Jenny Agutter, John Bradley, Sheridan Smith
Running time: 95 minutes

Those of us who grew up watching the classic 1970s The Railway Children film will always see Oakworth Station as a glimpse of home. Nevertheless, The Railway Children Return is not the soppy nostalgia fest that it could’ve been - but a sequel that understands children of today want something different.  

It opens with scenes of evacuees being put on the train in dirty, smoggy Manchester by their tearful mothers and the family of three children - Lily, Patty and Teddy - who are taken in by local headteacher Annie (Sheridan Smith) and her mother, Bobbie (Jenny Agutter reprising her famous role). These three are feistier than the original railway children and soon get into fights, talk back to adults, and roam the countryside. Alongside Annie’s son Tom, they find an abandoned train carriage with an injured US soldier hiding inside. It turns out he is underage, avenging his big brother who was killed in the war but has deserted due to racist violence within the US army, and the children hatch a rescue plan. If this feels a little far-fetched, try to remember the original Railway Children righted an injustice caused by Tsarist Russia - so the ambition of that storyline is reflected here.  

The four child leads are excellent and the supporting cast are all perfectly adequate. But it does feel lacking in the charm and gentle humour of the original

The four child leads are excellent – some real finds in terms of young acting talent – and the supporting cast are all perfectly adequate. But it does feel lacking in the charm and gentle humour of the original. Having said that, it also refuses to wallow in the rose-tinted view of the war that seems to have sprung up recently. Instead, this war is brutal and results in nothing but loss and separation of families - which, again, captures the spirit of the original.  

Susan Barsby (46) 

The Railway Children Return is really interesting. It deals with a lot more serious issues than the last and, while it isn't quite as funny, it is still a very exciting film. It highlights a lot of problems at that time and that is good to see. I would have loved Perks back from the first film because the substitute station master isn't as amusing. The film tries to recreate what it was like as evacuees in WW2 and that part is done well, and all in all this release proves quite good as a sequel. 

Elinor Barsby (10) 

Did you know? This utilises the same Yorkshire locations as the 1970 film.

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