January 10, 2013

Filthy Review - 'Railway Children'

Railway Children (2012)

Review by Jude Felton

Way back when I was a wee lad, before I had discovered the world of the horror movie, a favorite movie of mine was the 1970 film The Railway Children. The film starred a young Jenny Agutter and whisked the viewer away to a time of innocence, even during its heart pounding climax. This classic children’s movie was based on a novel by E. Nesbit, and through director Jason Figgis’ passion for this tale, both book and film, we get Railway Children. Believe me though when I tell you that they are two entirely different stories.

In an undetermined near future the adult population has been decimated by an unknown virus. Their deaths are preceded by symptoms not unlike the Rage virus seen in the 28 Days Later movies, but ultimately all adults are gone. However, this is not a film that dwells on the virus or the adults, instead it is a tale told through the eyes of two young sisters, Evie and Fran, as they make their way through this new and terrifying world.

To help ease the shock and pain, Evie has taken to reading the novel The Railway Children to her younger sister. It is in these moments that the younger sister can escape the horrors that have surrounded them. There might also be a case for Evie also escaping this world through the act of reading the book; after all it is a story that is far removed from the reality in which they live.

During the girls’ travels they come to encounter other groups of children, with some being friendlier than others, although it seems none are to be trusted. This is where the very core of the film lays; it is the interaction and relationships between these disparate groups of young children that the film focuses on. Through these children, slices of the past are revealed to us through flashbacks and dialogue, and slowly reveal the true horrors of their situation.

Post-apocalyptic films are quiet popular at the moment, whether it is just a sign of the times or just something as simple as a natural fear of what might be, it is not for me to say. Where Railway Children differs from many others though is the manner and execution of the story; it doesn’t rely on big action set-pieces or flashy effects, instead it is a dialogue heavy film that is carried on the shoulders of the young cast, a job in which they carry out beautifully.

Railway Children is dark and tragic, at times scary, sometimes more light-hearted, but above all else it is always honest and down-to-earth. Characters actions quite often have hidden motives and, as we all know, Children can be the cruelest of people, as you will see here. Don’t go into this film expecting visual extremes though, it isn’t a gory or especially violent film, although there is definitely violence in it, but what you will get is an emotional piece that resonated deeply with this viewer.

Jason Figgis, who wrote the film as well as directed it, has crafted a truly wonderful film. Taking elements of 28 Days Later and Lord of the Flies, and a classic children’s’ tale, he has conjured up his own unique vision of a collapsed society and the survivors who will be left to possibly rebuild it. Visually this film is beautiful to look at and belies what I believe to be quite a low budget. However, as the film is focused heavily on the dialogue this would not have been an issue had the film not looked so good. I have mentioned the dialogue so much as this is a film that requires you to sit back, absorb and enjoy the wonderful script. If you want non-stop action you have come to the wrong place; this is an almost lyrical movie that is built on the script and excellent performances.

I really can’t say enough good things about Railway Children, and I have very little to say in the negative, if anything. Maybe the pace is a little slow at times, but that is the nature of this beast; it’s a character study as much as it is a tale of devastation. Railway Children is gripping and emotional with outstanding performances from the cast; it’s the sort of film that will stick with you for a long time after watching it.

For more information about Railway Children check out the movie's Official Blog.


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