Just over 50 years ago, The Railway Children (based on the 1906 book by Edith Nesbit), graced our television screens with its heartwarming beauty and endearing simplicity. On 15th July 2022, cinemas saw the arrival of a sequel movie, The Railway Children Return. Hannah Walton-Hughes reviews.
Set during World War Two, the story follows three children, Lily, Pattie, and Ted (real name Adolf), who arrive as evacuees to the Yorkshire village featured in the first film. They are welcomed into the home of Roberta (also known as Bobbie, from the original story), and her daughter and grandson. The film follows their adventures, and their encounter with a black American war deserter.
I watched the original film of The Railway Children not long ago, having enjoyed the book when I was a child. I fell in love with the story and the characters instantly. Add to that the fact that Jenny Agutter is one of my favourite actresses, and you can imagine my excitement for the arrival of The Railway Children Return.
Now, despite my intense disappointment with the film overall, I must take a moment to highly commend Jenny Agutter, for reprising her incredibly likeable, funny, fiery and layered version of Bobbie. You can certainly see the continuation of the character from the first movie, and my favourite scenes in the film featured her. It is just such a shame that they are so few and far between. I also admire the way in which she never loses her charisma and emotional depth, despite the fact that she is having to work with actors whose character portrayals are about as interesting as watching paint dry.
The scenes of the children running across the meadow are also very sweet; mainly because they have their mouths shut
The three main children sadly lack any of the likeability that Bobbie, Peter and Phyllis displayed in the first film. Whilst the latter’s cheekiness and mischief was very endearing, the children in this film are nothing less than obstinate, petulant and downright annoying. Whilst the eldest child, Lily, improves in endurability slightly as the film progresses, the middle child, Pattie, really wound me up; the character is exaggeration personified, unbelievably rude, and was just a real thorn in my side throughout the movie. I do want to point out that Austin Haynes’ acting is wonderful; the character of Thomas was my favourite, (aside from Bobbie), and he was the only child that I rooted for.
Moving onto the storyline, what is going on there? I do not profess to be any kind of expert on the treatment of deserters during World War Two, and of course, the racism towards black soldiers that was presented in this film was horribly realistic, but I just found the whole escape plan very hard to follow. And the end scene, when the children are trying to stop the train where Lily and Abe are being kept prisoner, is a terribly forced reenactment of the original film. They even thought that it would be a good touch to have Thomas running onto the train line and collapsing, just like Bobbie did in The Railway Children. But really, aren’t they just being copycats?
Undoubtedly, the scenery in this film is gorgeous, and the aerial shots of the train do make for an impressive backdrop. The scenes of the children running across the meadow are also very sweet; mainly because they have their mouths shut.
This film really just feels like a forced continuation of a classic that was better left alone. I would have preferred the sequel to focus more heavily on Bobbie, and the life she led after the conclusion of the first film, which is not covered at all. Jenny Agutter is wonderful, and there are a few interesting scenes and emotional moments littered throughout the movie, but, overall, it is an hour and a half of my life that I will never get back!
Featured image courtesy of Alex Watkin. Permission to use granted to Impact. No changes were made to this image.
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