A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Coot Club

August 16, 2011

Coot Club

We got this movie and its sequel used from the Library where Amanda works because they were getting rid of the remainder of their VHS collection since so few families these days have VCRs to play tapes and they were taking up more room in the library than could be justified. Amanda is an enormous fan of Arthur Ransome and the Swallows and Amazons series that this movie comes from. I’ll let her go into more detail about the appeal of the books even with modern day children and how often she recommends them to families in her library. Indeed I have to admit that I only ever read the first of the eleven books in the series (this movie is based on the fifth) but I completely understand the charm of these tales of British children having adventures while on holiday.

What’s so wonderful about these stories for children I think is that they’re about kids off on their own being independent and taking care of themselves. There is very little adult supervision while these groups are out sailing, spending the night in boats, getting into jams, pretending to be pirates and generally having a wonderful time. At the start of the first book this hands-off approach to parenting is explained in a scene where the father of one of the families, who is off with the merchant marines, sends a telegram to the mother giving permission for them to be on the lake alone. “Better drowned than duffers,” he says, “If not duffers – won’t drown.” What child wouldn’t want to be allowed to have adventures on their own by parents who trust them to take care of themselves?

This story involves a group altogether different from those I remember from the first book in the series, but the hijinks are largely the same. It’s summer holidays and Dick and Dot Callum have traveled out to the broads to stay on the little sailing yacht The Teasel with a friend of the family, Mrs. Barrable. There they meet several of the local children who have formed a birdwatching and preservation society calling themselves the Coot Club. There’s Tom Dudgeon, the eldest, the twin Farland girls who go by “Port” and “Starboard,” and three boys who apparently live on their own little boat the Death and Glory: Pete, Joe and Bill.

Things go somewhat awry for this group when they run afoul of the obnoxious, loud and inconsiderate crew of a rental ship who have come out from the city to drink and party. These awful “Hullabaloos” moor their yacht right beside a nest that the coot club have been watching, driving off the mother bird and threatening the eggs. Even when politely asked to move they refuse, leaving the Coot Club with little alternative. Tom unties the boat and sets it adrift on the river, nearly getting caught in the process, and the Hullabaloos swear vengeance. Even as Tom teaches the Callums how to sail and introduces them to the other children on the river the Hullabaloos start to hound him, chasing him upriver and down and doing everything in their power to spoil Dick and Dot’s vacation.

The untouched British countryside during a summer in the nineteen thirties seems like an absolutely idyllic place to vacation, Hullabaloos notwithstanding. Everybody knows everybody else. The local constable knows everybody by name and pays the Death and Glory boys to weed his garden. At one point when Tom and the Callums sail off without them the Farland twins catch up by hitching rides with a series of river going folk and nobody even bats an eye at the thought of two ten year old girls traveling alone on the river.

I have to say I love this adaptation. The film perfectly captures that mood of adventure and the beauty of the countryside. The young actors playing the children genuinely seem to be having a grand time. There are long sequences which are nothing but peaceful sailing, the pleasant airy soundtrack by Paul Lewis, and shots of the birds along the river that the Coot Club so admire. Watching this, on a sweltering summer night after a long day at the bank, felt like a little vacation of its own. I could easily see this movie becoming standard summer viewing for me and Amanda like Ollie Hopnoodle’s Haven of Bliss. It’s like a holiday just to watch it – it helps me to escape from the daily grind and imagine myself on an adventure with hardly a care in the world. What a wonderful feeling.

August 16, 2011 - Posted by | daily reviews | , , ,

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