Saving Mr. Banks – Christian Movie Review
P.L. Travers (Emma Thompson), the author of Mary Poppins, reluctantly meets with filmmaker Walt Disney (Tom Hanks) as he tries to convince her to approve the adaptation of her beloved book. As they explore the production ideas for the film, the experience stirs up powerful and difficult childhood memories that she must finally face.
Parental Guidance Issues at a Glance…
Sexual Content: None.
Violence/Gore: A sick man is seen coughing up blood. A dead body is seen with a blank, glassy stare. A man falls off a stage.
Language: A few uses of mild profanity. “Lord” and “God” are spoken in vain.
Alcohol/Drug/Smoking Content: Alcoholic drinks are frequently consumed by one character in particular, but seeing this is actually essential for the story. A man apologetically smokes a cigarette and explains that he does it behind closed doors because he doesn’t want to inspire others to take up the same bad habit.
Frightening/Intense Content: A woman swims into a river in the middle of the night to kill herself, but her daughter swims out and saves her. It is emotionally intense and a little disturbing.
Other: Although this movie is much more family friendly than just about every other PG-13 movie out there, it has some heavy, complex emotions in it that would go over the head of younger viewers. The scenes involving the sick man mentioned above are visually and emotionally intense — and quite sad. In fact, the MPAA rated it PG-13 because of “thematic content and unsettling images.” Besides these heavier elements, it would be a great family film — though the younger kids should probably skip it. Frankly, they would probably be bored by it anyways. It is a very deep-thinking, emotionally mature and complex film.
Entertainment Value and Film Craft
The filmmakers executed the story for this movie with flawless, nimble attention to detail. It is one of those films where you can tell that every little detail in every scene — from the dialogue, to Tom Hank’s Midwestern accent, to the 1960’s fashion, to the reproduction of how Disneyland looked in the 1960s — was thought out with great effort and energy.
There is also striking juxtaposition in this film as it delicately leaps back and forth between the making of Disney’s irresistably giddy and fun-hearted Mary Poppins and the vast, weighty storm of emotion that brewed secretly and (almost) invisibly in the heart of P.L. Travers, the author of Mary Poppins.
But at the heart of the story is the relationship between a father and a daughter who deeply loved one another. I must say that Colin Farrell, Annie Rose Buckley, and Ruth Wilson were the beating heart of this movie even though they were more of a secondary cast beneath the looming shadows of the always brilliant Tom Hanks, Emma Thompson, and Paul Giamatti. The performances of Farrell, Buckley, and Wilson were riveting and heart-rending. If they had failed to convincingly portray the tenderness and love of the Goff family, then nothing else in the movie would have worked. Colin Farrell was especially noteworthy. He played the father of P.L. Travers to perfection.
Be warned: if you are a father or a daughter, you are at great risk of bawling in this film. I have a daughter, and I cried. I’m not embarrassed to admit it. It is a good kind of crying. It is the kind that reminds us how much we love the people in our lives and how precious life is. The film reaches for every heart string it can, perhaps overdoing it in one or two parts; but in the end, it is a tremendously joyful and satisfying film. It is a must-see.
Redemptive Qualities and Conclusion
On a deeper spiritual level, this film tackles a heady topic: the weight of the past, of all its guilts and griefs, and the prison of bitterness and unforgiveness that we unknowingly build for ourselves. In one particularly poignant scene, Walt Disney says to Travers: “stories are the way we restore order to those things [the sorrows from our past] so that they have a happier ending.” In the context of the story, he is not talking about wishful thinking as if the wounds from the past never happened. Instead, he is touching on something much more powerful: the work of redemption. Of course, the film stops short of mentioning Jesus as the Redeemer of all redeemers, but it does point the audience to the power of storytelling. This is something that Christian storytellers like C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien would have gladly received. God has intentionally built a powerful mechanism into the act of creative storytelling, and, among other things, this mechanism opens our hearts to the ultimate Story, that of the Cross.
All grandiose themes aside, Saving Mr. Banks has one clear goal: to present the redemption of a broken and hurting heart in an astonishingly beautiful way.
And in this, the film succeeded wonderfully.
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