Updating classic stories cheats our children
A new plotline in the Railway Children sequel fails to appreciate that the young understand the past was a different place
Frazzled parents might find respite at their local cinema this summer. The Railway Children Return is out, just in time for the school holidays. A sequel to the much loved 1970 film, which was itself based on Edith Nesbit’s classic novel from 1906, the story of siblings having adventures and battling adversity has captured children’s imaginations for well over a century.
Fans of the original will find lots to love in the new film. We may have jumped forward four decades to the Second World War, but the spectacular Yorkshire countryside, home-knit woolly jumpers, and of course the steam trains, all remain. Even Jenny Agutter is here, reprising her role as Bobbie, only this time as grandmother.
It is in the plot that viewers will spy differences. Our child heroes, safely evacuated from Manchester, have more than just bombs to worry about. A group of African-American soldiers are stationed near by and the American military police — the film’s undisputed baddies — are racist. When the siblings stumble across an injured black soldier hiding in a railway engine they find themselves not just battling to keep him alive but fighting racism too.
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