After missing it at the cinema I finally caught up with this beautiful and moving film this weekend. My only awareness of Mary Poppins and its author P.L. Travers was through the classic Disney film and therefore I was interested to learn more about the background of Mrs Travers and how she came to allow Walt Disney to turn her beloved character in to the film character so many people of all ages have grown up with.
Through the film we see Mrs Travers begrudgingly agree to travel to L.A in order to work with Disney’s team on the screenplay (she had script approval, something Walt Disney had never agreed to on any previous film). If she wasn’t happy she wouldn’t grant him the rights. It is clear that it isn’t going to be easy to please her and it’s amusing to see the film-makers come up against her forthright, no nonsense personality. This will not be an animated film and there will be no singing…!
However the heart of the film is the insight we gain in to her childhood in Australia with her parents and two younger sisters and we quickly understand how the hard-hearted exterior she now has came to be. We also see where the inspiration for the Banks family and their world famous nanny came from and the poignant context for her characters was something I knew nothing about and was not expecting. It would be wrong to give away much more than that, save as to say, in Mrs Travers’s eyes, Mary Poppins did not arrive on Cherry Tree Lane to save the Banks children.
Emma Thompson is simply wonderful as Travers and moved me to tears a few times. She captures the different aspects of her personality so well, from the hard, reserved battle-axe, through to the woman yearning to heal herself and her past. I now absolutely understand the shock that followed her lack of Oscar nomination, as this is a beautiful, heartfelt performance. Tom Hanks (one of my favourite actors) is wonderful as Walt Disney, a man determined to make the film a reality 20 years after he first approached Mrs Travers about it. He brings a sense of fun to the film and I loved seeing his relationship with Emma Thompson’s Mrs Travers develop.
Other strong supporting performances come from Paul Giamatti as Travers’s driver, with whom she grows to have a strong connection and Bradley Whitford as Don DaGradi, whose patience when dealing with her long list of complaints is wonderfully amusing to watch. Some of the most moving performances however come from those in the scenes set in the past, particularly Colin Farrell as Travers’s father (who works in a bank, but who has a worrying dependency on alcohol). Ruth Wilson is a strong presence as her mother, struggling to keep her young family together and Annie Rose Buckley as the young P.L. Travers is simply fantastic. This little girl is a wonderful actress, who cannot fail to move the audience as we see the love between father and daughter even in increasingly difficult circumstances.
The film also doesn’t spell everything out for you. Seeds are sown early on that come to make sense in weaving the strands of the story from the two periods of history together. It is a beautiful film, full of emotion and heart and a mix of entertaining, but also moving moments. For anyone who grew up watching Mary Poppins it is a wonderful insight in to how she made her way on to film and finally reached an even wider audience, generation after generation. You’ll need your tissues every so often but I truly cannot recommend it highly enough.
Here is the link to the official trailer: http://youtu.be/16MdSZH6I4o