Railway Children parents guide

Railway Children Parent Guide

Fighting the enemies on the home front.

Overall B+

Theaters: During the British Blitz, three siblings are sent to the countryside for safety. While there, they stumble upon an injured American soldier who needs their help to get back home. (This movie is also released as "The Railway Children Return".)

Release date September 23, 2022

Violence B
Sexual Content A
Profanity B+
Substance Use A

Why is Railway Children rated PG? The MPAA rated Railway Children PG for thematic material, some violence and language

Run Time: 95 minutes

Parent Movie Review

It’s 1944 and German bombs are falling on British cities. The Watts siblings, Lily, Pattie, and Ted (played by Beau Gadsdon, Eden Hamilton, and Zac Cudby) are evacuated to the safety of the Yorkshire countryside where they wind up with the family of Bobbie Waterbury, her schoolmistress daughter, and her grandson, Thomas (played by Jenny Agutter, Sheridan Smith, and Austin Haynes). The Watts siblings are homesick, but Thomas and his family are welcoming, and the visitors soon settle into their peaceful rural surroundings.

There is little peace on the nearby American military base. Tensions between black and white soldiers have flared up, and military police are beating black soldiers who socialize with white women in the adjacent town. Injured and unwilling to risk further attacks, young Private Abraham McCarthy (Kenneth Aikens) goes on the run and stumbles across a hideout used by Thomas and his new friends. Sure enough, Abe is found by Pattie, and the children are drawn into America’s racial quagmire.

This film is a generational sequel to Edith Nesbit’s classic novel, Railway Children, with one of its protagonists now a grandmother instead of a child. I have never read Ms. Nesbit’s novel and although I know the script contains allusions to the book, that didn’t stop me from following the movie’s plot. To be honest, it’s a very simple story, focused almost exclusively on racism and the responsibility of bystanders to stand up to racially motivated violence and injustice. It’s not subtle, it gets a bit preachy, but the story has good intentions, and I can forgive a bit of stuffiness for a movie whose heart is in the right place.

Most of the movie revolves around the ethical dilemmas faced by Lily and Thomas as they help Abe and this is where parents will find themselves conflicted. In her attempts to help Abe, Lily lies, sneaks out at night, indulges in other reckless behavior, nearly gets killed and gets arrested. Thomas is much more ambivalent about their clandestine activities and argues with Lily about their dishonesty. He wisely wants to get adults involved but finally gives in and helps Lily with her plans. Aside from the kids’ unwise choices, the movie contains little else for parents to worry about. There’s very minor profanity, mention of losses in wartime, and some brief scenes of racial violence. This isn’t a movie that will frighten most kids, but it might not be one that will interest them either.

Railway Children is an easy choice for fans of the book and for young viewers who enjoy historical drama. It also clearly drives home its racial justice message and does so with appealing characters in a beautifully rendered historical context. Whether or not this package delivers enjoyable family entertainment is less dependent on the film itself and more on the personalities of the viewers.

Directed by Morgan Matthews. Starring John Bradley, Jenny Agutter, Sheridan Smith. Running time: 95 minutes. Theatrical release September 23, 2022. Updated

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Railway Children
Rating & Content Info

Why is Railway Children rated PG? Railway Children is rated PG by the MPAA for thematic material, some violence and language

Violence: There is brief mention of bombings and resultant damage. A burning bomb crater is seen. There is some minor rough-housing among schoolboys. Kids throw rocks at other kids. Children have a food fight. There’s mention of a man’s death in combat. A man’s injured foot is briefly visible. American military police beat black soldiers for fraternizing with white women. A child runs in front of a train to stop it.
Sexual Content: None noted.
Profanity: The script contains three minor profanities and a possible term of deity. In one scene, a Black soldier is referred to as “boy”.
Alcohol / Drug Use: None noted.

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Railway Children Parents' Guide

The plot of this film centers on the racism shown to black GIs by their own military command. Do you think this was meant merely as historical record or as contemporary commentary?

For more information about the racism Black American soldiers faced during World War II, you can follow these links:

Imperial War Museum: “They treated us royally”? Black Americans in Britain during WW2

The Conversation: Black troops were welcome in Britain, but Jim Crow wasn’t; the race riot of one night in June 1943

History.com: Black Americans Who Served in WWII Faced Segregation Abroad and at Home

BBC: What happened to the British children born to black GIs?

The Review of Economic Studies: Shocking Racial Attitudes: Black G.I.s in Europe


Loved this movie? Try these books…

This movie is based on the characters in Edith Nesbit’s classic novel, The Railway Children. This film has also been released as a book in Linda Chapman’s The Railway Children Return.

Other books by Edith Nesbit include The Wouldbegoods, The Story of the Treasure Seekers, and Five Children and It. A wide selection of her books are available for free online at Project Gutenberg.

If you enjoy vintage adventure stories featuring children in the English countryside, you can read Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome. This is the first of a 12 book series, so there’s action aplenty here. In a similar vibe are the 21 books of Enid Blyton’s Famous Five series and the 15 novels of the Secret Seven series.

Home Video

Related home video titles:

The Railway Children was released in theaters in 1970 and as a television movie in 2000. Another children’s book by Edith Nesbit (Five Children and It) has also had a recent film release as Four Kids and It.

For more English adventures, your family can try Swallows and Amazons. In this kid-friendly tale, two groups of kids start out having a feud over an island before joining forces against nefarious spies.

Also evacuated to the countryside for safety during the Second World War, the four Pevensie children discover a portal to another world in the back of a wardrobe. Their adventures are described in The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Sequels are The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspianand The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.

Adventures – real and imaginary – happen to the Banks children when they get a new nanny named Mary Poppins. Another British nanny imparts valuable life lessons to her rambunctious charges in Nanny McPhee.