Film reviews: The Railway Children Return, The Good Boss, Thor 4

The Railway Children Return

The Railway Children Return - Credit: Jaap Buitendijk/Studiocanal

The Railway Children Return (PG)

***

The Railway Children return – and this time it’s war! Thirty-nine years after the events of the original film, we find Jenny Agutter’s Bobbie still living in the same small Yorkshire community having made a nice life for herself with her school teacher daughter, Sheridan Smith.
The Second World War though is about to interrupt all that. Together they are going to take in three new railway children, siblings evacuated from Salford in 1944.
Setting this follow-up during WWII is an astute move. In the original film, three children were trying to cope with an absent daddy; now almost everybody is trying to deal with missing fathers and husbands, off in Europe, fighting the Bosch.
We soon learn though that these war railway children are a much rougher crowd than the Edwardian originals.
Within a few minutes, they’ve pulled the emergency cord on a train, taken a pee trackside and stolen their teacher’s bar of chocolate. (Though they do then share it around equally.)
But once in their new country home, they set about fighting for racial justice by helping to hide an underage black GI who has deserted to escape from the brutal Military Police. (In this film the British are universally racially tolerant, while all white Americans are frightful bigots.)
Evading the military and the police is a tall order for a group of youngsters though nothing compared with the film’s battles against the reverence and love with which the original film is held.
It’s particularly tough because its seemingly universal charm is an intangible thing. It’s sweet and charming, but there is no obvious factor to set it apart from all the other tales of childhood. Yet all it takes is to hear Agutter saying “Dad, my daddy,” to reduce most of us to quivering wrecks.
And, of course, Return has absolutely none of that charm. Not many films do to be fair, but it is at least good-hearted and well-meaning.
As the Bobbie of the new group, Beau Gadson looks to have talent (she has played the young version of the main character in Star Wars Rogue One and Censor) but the rest of the youngsters are a mixed bag and most of the adult cast don’t get much of a look in.
Go to www.halfmanhalfcritic.com for a review of the BFI blu-ray release of Robert Bresson’s Pickpocket.

Directed by Morgan Matthews. Starring Beau Gadsdon, Austin Haynes, KJ Aitkens, Jenny Agutter, Tom Courtenay, Sheridan Smith and Tom Bradley. Running time: 90 mins. 

The Railway Children Return

Sheridan Smith and Jenny Agutter in The Railway Children Return - Credit: Jaap Buitendijk/Studiocanal

The Good Boss (15)
***

I’m not suggesting that this is a contemporary Carry On At Your Convenience, but there is something rather retro about this workplace comedy-drama.
It’s set in a successful small company, Blancos, where most of the employees work on the shop floor. In the 21st century, the on-screen workforce is made up entirely of office workers and the people who serve the office workers coffee; manufacturing and manual labour are magical activities that occur probably somewhere in a biosphere, or abroad.
Back in the last century though dramatic pieces set in factories exploring the division between management and the workers were common.
Blancos makes scales, precision mechanisms, but the film is quite a blunt instrument. At the start, we hear the boss (Bardem) telling his employees that this company is one big happy family.
Obviously, the following two hours will expose the sham of this. The points it makes about class and industrial relations are fairly obvious and, for the subtitle reading viewer, the humour hits home only sporadically. Bardem though is better than he’s been in a long, long time.

Directed by Fernando León de Aranoa. Starring Javier Bardem, Manolo Solo, Almudena Amor, Oscar de la Fuente, Sonia Almarcha and Fernando Albizo. In Spanish with subtitles. In cinemas or on Curzon Home Cinema. Running time: 120 mins.

The Good Boss

Javier Bardem stars in The Good Boss - Credit: Fernando Marrero/The Mediapro Studio

Thor: Love and Thunder (12A)
***

This makes it four for Thor, edging him ahead of the three big-screen instalments for Iron Man and Captain America.
It’s quite an achievement for the unfancied lad from Asgard, overcoming an initial two films that were poor to middling. Right from the start, the films have understood that you couldn’t play the character straight, that you had to send this Nordic God up a little for audiences to accept him.
Gradually though this all-conquering galactic warrior started to become something of a delusional fool, a clown.
Love and Thunder is again overseen by Waititi (Jo Jo Rabbit,) who made the third instalment, Ragnarok, an absolute blast, the funniest and most purely enjoyable of the Marvel films.
The humour in Thor four though is forced and patchy. When Russell Crowe turns up doing a Harry Enfield tribute act you, it’s all a bit much.
The film’s salvation is that somebody invited Mr Grumpy - Christian Bale - along to poop this garish fancy dress party as the villain, the God Butcher.
Whenever he appears, the whole film lifts markedly. Even so, Thor four is thoroughly flawed for sure.

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Directed by Taika Waititi. Starring Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Christian Bale, Tessa Thompson, Russell Crowe and Taika Waititi. In cinemas. Running time: 119 mins.

(L-R): Natalie Portman as Mighty Thor and Chris Hemsworth as Thor in Marvel Studios' THOR: LOVE AND

(L-R): Natalie Portman as Mighty Thor and Chris Hemsworth as Thor in Marvel Studios' THOR: LOVE AND THUNDER. Photo by Jasin Boland. ©Marvel Studios 2022. All Rights Reserved. - Credit: Jasin Boland/Marvel Studios 2022