Railway Children Return, The

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Not suitable under 8; parental guidance to 10 (violence and scary scenes)

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This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for Railway Children Return, The
  • a review of Railway Children Return, The completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 8 September 2022.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 8 Not suitable due to violence and scary scenes.
Children aged 8–10 Parental guidance recommended due to violence and scary scenes.
Children over the age of 10 Ok for this age group.

About the movie

This section contains details about the movie, including its classification by the Australian Government Classification Board and the associated consumer advice lines. Other classification advice (OC) is provided where the Australian film classification is not available.

Name of movie: Railway Children Return, The
Classification: PG
Consumer advice lines: Mild themes and violence
Length: 99 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

Set in 1944, five years into World War II, children are being evacuated from large cities to rural areas for their protection. Lily (Beau Gadsdon), Pattie (Eden Hamilton) and Ted Watts (Zac Cudby) are three siblings who are tearfully sent by their mother from Salford/Manchester 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 are marched to the local hall. Lily, Pattie and Ted end up staying with Bobbie, Annie and her son Thomas (Austin Haynes), as none of the villagers are willing to take in three children.

Lily is quite strong-headed, rebellious and free-spirited and quickly takes to roaming the countryside with Thomas and her two siblings. It is on one of these outings that they find a young, black, American soldier hiding in a train carriage. Abe (KJ Aikens) is badly injured and manages to convince Lily to help him by bringing necessary medical treatment. The children think it is a bit of a game, conspiring to hide Abe, not realising that he is in fact a deserter from the Army. 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 is angry at first but then decides to help Abe get home to America. Unfortunately, their plans go awry when they are spotted by the local town gossip.


Children and adolescents may react adversely at different ages to themes of crime, suicide, drug and alcohol dependence, death, serious illness, family breakdown, death or separation from a parent, animal distress or cruelty to animals, children as victims, natural disasters and racism. Occasionally reviews may also signal themes that some parents may simply wish to know about.

War; Racism; Separation from parents; Death of a parent.

Use of violenceinfo

Research shows that children are at risk of learning that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution when violence is glamourised, performed by an attractive hero, successful, has few real life consequences, is set in a comic context and / or is mostly perpetrated by male characters with female victims, or by one race against another.

Repeated exposure to violent content can reinforce the message that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution. Repeated exposure also increases the risks that children will become desensitised to the use of violence in real life or develop an exaggerated view about the prevalence and likelihood of violence in their own world.

There is some violence in this movie, including:

  • American Military Police attack the black American soldiers with batons. The violence is shown from a distant perspective and not in graphic detail. This is shown on several occasions.
  • Abe falls on a broken bottle while escaping the police, injuring his leg.
  • A gang of 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 and yells at them, sending them all out.
  • The children arm themselves with weapons when they discover Abe, thinking he is a German spy.
  • A bomb explodes in a graveyard near to where Lily is. She screams and collapses from the shock. The ground is seen on fire and with a large crater in it.
  • Abe talks about his older brother who was killed in the war and that 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 bodily manhandle them.

Material that may scare or disturb children

Under fiveinfo

Children under five are most likely to be frightened by scary visual images, such as monsters, physical transformations.

  • Nothing more for this age group.

Aged five to eightinfo

Children aged five to eight will also be frightened by scary visual images and will also be disturbed by depictions of the death of a parent, a child abandoned or separated from parents, children or animals being hurt or threatened and / or natural disasters.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes and scary visual images, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children aged five to eight, including the following:

  • It is quite an emotionally, heart-wrenching scene at the start of the movie, when parents are putting their children on the train to take them away to the country. Many of them are crying, including Lily’s Mum who sobs as the train pulls away.
  • Children on the train need to use the toilet but the guard won’t allow the train to stop. Lily pulls the emergency chord to allow the children a chance to get off and pee by the rail-side.
  • The children are chosen by prospective families to take them into their homes. Lily, Pattie and Ted don’t get chosen because there are too many of them.
  • Lily climbs out of the bedroom window during the night, jumps to the ground and walks in the dark to take medical supplies to Abe. Scary music is played.

Aged eight to thirteeninfo

Children aged eight to thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic threats and dangers, violence or threat of violence and / or stories in which children are hurt or threatened.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children aged eight to thirteen, including the following:

  • The Military Police are seen ordering the black soldiers around and calling them “boy”.
  • Annie receives a telegram from the postman. We find out later that her husband’s plane has been shot down and he has been captured as a prisoner of war.
  • Lily collapses at the explosion and Abe carries her still body into the train carriage.
  • Abe admits to Lily that he is only 14 years old and that he is a deserter. He’s afraid he will be hanged if he is caught.
  • Lily tells Thomas that their dad died during the war. She cries while telling him and imagines seeing him in her mind. She hugs him and calls out to him as he disappears into a cloud.
  • Lily and Abe are seen locked up in a cage.
  • Thomas runs in front of a train to stop it. Luckily it does stop.

Thirteen and overinfo

Children over the age of thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic physical harm or threats, molestation or sexual assault and / or threats from aliens or the occult.

  • Nothing further of concern.

Product placement

  • None noted.

Sexual references

There are some sexual references in this movie, including:

  • Lily is attracted to Abe and imagines herself hugging him.

Nudity and sexual activity

  • None noted.

Use of substances

There is some use of substances in this movie, including:

  • The station master drinks from a hip flask.

Coarse language

There is some coarse language in this movie, including:

  • Fart
  • Hell’s bells
  • Oh my God
  • What the Hell.
  • Some name calling e.g.
    • Pathetic
    • Idiot.

In a nutshell

The Railway Children Return is a family drama set against the backdrop of World War II. The film raises some important subjects, such as racism and displacement by war, and, as such, is a good basis for parents to discuss these matters with their children. There is violence in this movie, which is done in a way that it is not too graphic but relevant to the story. Nevertheless, due to the subject matter involved, this film is not suitable for children under 8 and parental guidance is recommended for children aged 8-10.

The main messages from this movie are that the world is not a bad place, it just goes through bad times; and that the colour of your skin should make no difference to how you are treated.

Values in this movie that parents may wish to reinforce with their children include:

  • Courage
  • Friendship
  • Kindness
  • Bravery
  • Caring
  • Standing up for what you believe in
  • Community.

This movie could also give parents the opportunity to discuss with their children attitudes and behaviours, and their real-life consequences, such as:

  • How hard it must have been for parents and their children, to be separated during such a scary time.
  • Why did the American Military Police treat the black soldiers so badly?
  • Lily says at one point that lying is necessary for survival. Thomas disagrees and thinks you should never lie. Where does the truth sit?
  • Thomas runs out in front of a train to stop it. This was a very dangerous thing to do and parents need to emphasise this with their children.