So if you have followed along any, then you will know that I’m constantly behind the times on movies. When you add of the cost of the movie and movie theater snacks plus the cost of a babysitter, it makes for an expensive evening out, so going to see new movies at the theater is a rare treat around here. We didn’t see Frozen until it came out on DVD and we bought it. And we just rented Saving Mr. Banks over the weekend. I had heard the back story on it, basically that it was just about how Disney really wanted to make Mary Poppins and the movie covers how he had to convince P.L. Travers to let him.
I had an inkling from the trailer that some of Mary Poppins might be based on her past, but I had no idea that it was going to delve quite so deeply into the painful childhood that she endured. I shed many a tear and I had not expected to do so. I thought that the film was going to be much more light-hearted. Don’t get me wrong, it was a good movie, but it’s heavy. In general I have quite a hard time watching children be hurt. They are so vulnerable and I just want to scoop them up and save them from all the harshness of their realities, even when it’s in a movie. Although, as I have learned from further reading, P.L. Travers really did have to go through a painful childhood that involved her father’s alcoholism and an attempted suicide by her mother.
Her childhood left P.L. Travers quite sad, and as the movie depicts it seems she struggled to deal with her past. I love the scene where Walt Disney shows up on her doorstep in London and he tells her about his own “Mr. Banks”, his father. Walt shares that although his father did love him, he was also very harsh and hurtful. He says to her,
“Now, I don’t tell you all this to make you sad Mrs Travers, I don’t. I love my life – it’s a miracle. And I loved my daddy, boy I loved him. But, there isn’t a day goes by where I don’t think of that little boy in the snow and old Elias with his fist and strap and I’m just so tired– I’m tired of remembering it that way. Aren’t you tired Mrs Travers? We all have our tales but don’t you want to find a way to finish the story? Let it all go and have a life that isn’t dictated by a past?
It’s not the children she comes to save. It’s their father. It’s your father–? Travers Goff.”
I’m sure that this is a completely fictional scene, but it makes the movie. I love this message. None of our parents were perfect. None of us are perfect parents either. Many of us have things in our pasts, be it our parents who have hurt us or other complicated relationships or situations that deeply hurt us. I know that I have some things that I genuinely wish I didn’t remember. Walt is right, we have to let go of these things and make peace with them. I love that this movie sends the message out that we are all capable of coming to terms with our past sufferings and have a life that is not dictated by the past. That’s not easy at all, and for some of us it takes time, but it is possible. For those with deep hurts it may take more time and reaching out for some outside help.
Walt ends the scene with one last impassioned plea:
“Give her to me, Mrs Travers. Trust me with your precious Mary Poppins. I won’t disappoint you. I swear that every time a person goes into a movie house – from Leicester to St Louis, they will see George Banks being saved. They will love him and his kids, they will weep for his cares, and wring their hands when he loses his job. And when he flies that kite, oh! They will rejoice, they will sing. In every movie house, all over the world, in the eyes and the hearts of my kids, and other kids and their mothers and fathers for generations to come, George Banks will be honoured. George Banks will be redeemed. George Banks and all he stands for will be saved. Maybe not in life, but in imagination. Because that’s what we storytellers do. We restore order with imagination. We instill hope again and again and again. Trust me, Mrs Travers. Let me prove it to you. I give you my word.”
In the movie P.L. Travers seems to find peace with her past through allowing them to make the film complete with the redemption of Mr. Banks. Based on what I read, though it appears the real P.L. Travers did not find peace. It seemed like she was constantly searching and many feel like she was quite sad.
I know that not all will accept this, but I feel like true healing and peace with one’s past and hurts and pain can only come from God. Even as Christians though we can still sometimes struggle with our pasts. When I find myself being overcome with pain or depression about a past memory I find Philippians 4 to be the most comforting scripture for me, especially verses 13 and 14.
“…Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”
At first I was a little bit saddened by the fact that the reality of Saving Mr. Banks did not live up to the movie. But then I thought a little more about What Walt said about storytellers and was struck by its beauty. Storytellers really are able to restore order with imagination and instill hope. P.L. Travers may never have found her peace like her character did in the movie but her Mary Poppins stories brought a lot of joy and comfort to others and as a writer she was able to instill that hope that Walt was talking about. What a beautiful gift for her to give to us all.