In 1944 in England, World War II has been going for 5 years, and children are being evacuated from large cities to rural areas.
Lily (Beau Gadsdon), Pattie (Eden Hamilton) and Ted Watts (Zac Cudby) are siblings. They tearfully leave their mother at Salford/Manchester and travel to Oakford/Yorkshire by train, along with many other children. The siblings are met at the station by the local head teacher, Annie (Sheridan Smith), and her mother, Bobbie (Jenny Agutter), where they’re marched to the local hall. Lily, Pattie and Ted end up staying with Bobbie, Annie and her son Thomas (Austin Haynes), because no other villagers are willing to take in 3 children.
Lily is strong-willed, rebellious and free-spirited and quickly takes to roaming the countryside with Thomas and her siblings. On one of these outings, they find a young, Black American soldier hiding in a train carriage. Abe (KJ Aikens) is badly injured and convinces Lily to bring him medical treatment. The children think of conspiring to hide Abe as a game, not realising that he’s in fact an Army deserter. Abe has fled the Army after being beaten by the American military police for fraternising with the local townspeople.
When Lily discovers the truth, she’s angry at first but then decides to help Abe get home to America. Unfortunately, their plans go wrong when they’re spotted by the local town gossip.
War; racism; separation from parents; death of a parent
The Railway Children Return has some violence. For example:
- American military police attack the Black American soldiers with batons. The violence is shown from a distance without graphic detail. It’s shown several times.
- Abe falls on a broken bottle while escaping from the police. He injures his leg.
- Some boys throw rocks and stones at Thomas, Lily and her siblings.
- Lily tackles the gang leader to the ground and hits him.
- The children often play fight and one time they throw flour at each other.
- Annie is very angry at the mess the children have made. She yells at them, sending them all out.
- The children arm themselves with weapons when they discover Abe, thinking he’s a German spy.
- A bomb explodes in a graveyard near Lily. She screams and collapses from the shock. The ground is on fire and has a large crater.
- Abe talks about his older brother, who was killed in the war. He says he wanted to join up to kill Germans.
- Lily gets into a fight with a boy who says her mother is probably dead, killed by a bomb.
- Military police point a gun at the Black soldiers and fire it.
- Pattie slaps Lily across the face.
- Thomas throws an egg at the station master to distract him.
- Lily and Abe are both arrested by the military police, who handcuff them and restrain them physically.
The Railway Children Return has some sexual references. For example, Lily is attracted to Abe and imagines herself hugging him.
Alcohol, drugs and other substances
The Railway Children Return shows some use of substances. For example, the station master drinks from a hip flask.
Nudity and sexual activity
There’s no nudity and sexual activity in The Railway Children Return.
There’s no product placement in The Railway Children Return.
The Railway Children Return has some coarse language and name-calling. For example, ‘fart’, ‘hell’s bells’, ‘oh my god’, ‘what the hell’, ‘pathetic’ and ‘idiot’.
Ideas to discuss with your children
The Railway Children Return is a family drama set against the backdrop of World War II. The movie explores issues like racism and displacement because of war, which could make it a good conversation starter for you and your children.
The Railway Children Return does have some violence, which is relevant and presented without a lot of graphic detail. But because of its subject matter, this movie isn’t suitable for children under 8 years. We also recommend parental guidance for children aged 8-10 years.
These are the main messages from The Railway Children Return:
- The world isn’t a bad place, but it sometimes goes through bad times.
- The colour of your skin should make no difference to how you’re treated.
Values in The Railway Children Return that you could reinforce with your children include the courage to stand up for what you believe in, friendship, kindness, bravery, care for others, and community.
The Railway Children Return could also give you the chance to talk with your children about real-life issues like:
- how hard it must be for parents and children to be separated during scary times
- why the American military police treated the black soldiers so badly
- how to balance truth and lies – for example, Lily says that lying is necessary for survival, whereas Thomas disagrees and thinks you should never lie.
Also, at one point, Thomas runs out in front of a train to stop it. This is a very dangerous thing to do, and it’s important to emphasise this to children.