I discovered Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransom when I was a wee child. I couldn't have been much older than 9 or 10, and I devoured the book, wanting more than anything to be inside it, to be living the story. It's such a simple story, but it gripped me. I wanted to be the fifth Walker, sailing across Lake Windermere with the Amazons, fighting pirates and finding treasure. Every time we went to the beach or on holiday I would force my family to play Swallows and Amazons with me, trusty book in hand, imagination fired by the adventures in the first book, and all that followed.
Swallows and Amazons was my childhood in a nutshell, so you can imagine the excitement that I (now 20) felt when I found out my favourite childhood book was being released in the cinema. The trailers took me right back, and I knew I had to go and see the film. I did no research before going to see it, and so I settled down into my seat, anxiously waiting to see if they'd manage to capture the essence of the book on film, or whether it had been mercilessly slaughtered in order to make a movie that sold.
I was both surprised and disappointed. Yes, some things have been changed and made more 'Hollywood'. The plot moved away from the mundane adventure of seven children who stumbled across Captain Flint's treasure, into an exciting adventure, fuelled by Russian spies and stolen bomb plans. Part of me wished desperately they'd stuck to the original storyline that so excited me as a child but now, as an adult, I can appreciate probably would not cater to the palate of today's children, brought up as they are on a diet of high adventure and violence.
However, at it's very heart, it was the same story I've loved for years. The slower, less exciting parts on the island, with the discovery of the Amazons and the 'war' on the lake were all there. Titty (changed to Tatty) and John going across the lake to visit the charcoal burners, Susan cooking on an open campfire, all four Walkers visiting Rio for grog and pemmican - it was everything ten year old Beth had ever wanted.
If you loved the books like I did, this film is definitely worth a watch. Planes, guns, and spies aside, at it's heart it's a tribute to the story telling abilities of Arthur Ransom, and his children's books. The casting is excellent, with all seven of the children embodying their characters so perfectly they could be the Walker's and the Blackett's. The location is stunning, the sailing scenes are a work of beauty, and I want to live on the island itself. So from the bottom of my heart, I thank everyone who made this film what it is.
What do you think of Swallows and Amazons?