This new film version of Arthur Ransome’s much-loved children’s novel offers a cosy fantasy of England in 1935: all steam trains and wholesome outdoorsy kids dashing the plans of dastardly foreign spies. The five Walker children are on holiday in the Lake District when they find a dinghy, the Swallow. They persuade their mum (Kelly Macdonald) to let them sail to the island on a nearby lake and camp out for the night, clashing with the elusive ‘Amazons’ – two local sisters playing at pirates. The kids also become involved in the mysterious goings-on between a boat dweller who claims to be a travel journalist (Rafe Spall) and a sharp-suited mystery man (Andrew Scott), who speaks Russian and comes with his own moustachioed ruffian sidekick.
The film’s pleasures are simple – soaring landscapes, old-school DIY adventure and some sweet performances by the child actors. It makes for a charmingly old-fashioned family adventure – one that you can imagine several generations of a family gathering to watch on a rainy grey Sunday afternoon.