I recently saw Mary Poppins Returns and while today’s post will not specifically review this movie in too much detail (hint: go and see it for yourself!), the cast and lead characters are wonderful – particularly Emily Blunt as Mary Poppins and Lin-Manuel Miranda as Jack the lamplighter.
From the opening scene you have the feeling of being taken right back to a simpler (albeit difficult) time in history – it is set in the 1930s during the ‘Great Slump’. I also found that this initial reaction extended to how the movie itself looked and was made – first impressions count, right? The cast and crew have done a grand job of pulling you into a now-lost world of lightness, whimsy, and the sweet innocence of old-time musicals from the 1950s. The music, rich orchestral sounds, costumes, artwork, details, and more are to be absorbed in all their enchantment.
But there are some precious takeaway lessons which (like the original film released in 1964) are timeless and are as ever, if not more, important for us today. Of course, the colour, visual and special effects, and animations are awesome in the truest sense of that word, but the messages of this lovely film are what I would like to share with you.
We all have moments in our lives when we feel that we are in a great slump of sorts. We can tend to be nostalgic and think back to the days when, as children, we were carefree and had more time to play, use our imaginations, sing, dance, and just have fun. We were able to believe that anything was possible and that the future ahead was going to be promising and always filled with good things.
We then had to grow up, take on more responsibilities, think, plan, analyse our motivations, please others, and live according to rules and regulations. We gradually forgot to hope in the possibilities and freedoms of what could be. Our imaginations became dulled and frazzled by the need to survive, work, and ‘be someone’ of significance. We came to realise that as adults we could not go through life singing and dancing through the streets, up ladders, on rooftops, trees, or anywhere in public lest people think we were mad. We had to become ‘respectable’. And so, I think, during this process we lost a fundamental part of ourselves.
However if we are fortunate, sometimes in life, we can meet someone who still manages to preserve that sense of perpetual child-like positivity and hope that, no matter what, everything will turn out well in the end. That person can remind us that uprightness, civility, love, trust, and goodness are worth holding onto, especially through the dark times. They know that persistence and perspective are paramount. They tell us that no one and nothing is ever lost, and that we can always find them again if we look into our hearts and memories. They convince us that we have more courage than we’ll ever know. We are challenged to adopt a different point of view and not take ourselves too seriously. It is what we think and do then, that makes the difference.
The fictional character of Mary Poppins embodies such people (created by P. L. Travers, who based the character on her great-aunt). She is discreet but an ever-hopeful and polite character with self-confidence, wit, and pluck – along with a dash of magic. She is prim and proper, immaculately dressed, and a little bit sassy, with a heart of solid gold. Emily Blunt’s depiction of Mary is her unique portrayal – she is bit more gutsy and serious, and while not sugary sweet, maintains a poignant, vulnerable, and compassionate undercurrent throughout. Her singing voice (and yes, Emily Blunt does the singing herself), is lovely and rich.
One of my favourite lines in the movie is Mary Poppins’ statement that some people think too much. As someone who tends to think a lot myself, I actually thought a lot about that assertion (no pun intended) and realised that she is right. In our modern times we have especially become too uptight and analytical for our own good. We think we know everything just because we have so much at our fingertips, and have become so sophisticated in our ‘smart’ age. We have indeed been spoilt at the touch of a button. We make such a hullabaloo when the internet goes offline. We freak out during a blackout or if net banking is down. We throw tantrums if we don’t get what we want NOW! What if we were living during the Great Depression? What if we were about to lose our home?
What this movie asks of us in many underlying and subtle ways is to have hope in the goodness of life. Make connections with others, always look up and believe that you will endure through the darkness, hold onto positive times gone by and to future possibilities, use your imagination to dream of better days, and know that the light is not extinguished even if you are in the lowest valleys.
The movie is not all song and dance – and there are some gorgeous scenes and singing – but more importantly it addresses matters which many can relate to today about facing poverty, depression, money issues, homelessness, loss, workers’ rights, despair, trust, and the value of finding support through connecting with people.
I have read several reviews which have strongly criticized this movie for not living up to, or surpassing, the original 1964 version – particularly regarding the songs. But I think that, while they are entitled to their opinion, these reviewers have missed the point of Mary Poppins Returns entirely. This movie never set out to compete with the original one or to supplant Julie Andrews as the original Mary Poppins. It is not fair to constantly compare and contrast the performance of the original actors with the present-day ones. Mary Poppins Returns is a unique movie that successfully carries the story, flavour, and sweetness of the original, but also makes its own mark as a true sequel should. We have all lost the heart of this movie if we do not find the morals and meanings which lie within it:
- It is ok to be a little silly, to make magic by sharing a joyful, playful spirit in a downcast world.
- Poverty is real – it is essential to help others look for what is possible and reach out.
- Always try to find the positive in whatever situation you are in, no matter how dire.
- Look at things from a child’s perspective, tap into the innocence of life and appreciate its gifts while we are here.
- Don’t overthink things or take yourself too seriously.
- Everything is a matter of perspective.
- Don’t be afraid to sing and dance. Enjoy this life while you can.
- A positive, imaginative mind and life can help you cope through the bad times.
The true gift of Mary Poppins Returns is in its nuances, and the film deserves repeat viewings. When I left the cinema and returned to the busy shopping centre – crowds scurrying about, loud music pumping from speakers, material things and technology in abundance – part of me wanted to remain in the world I had left on the big screen.
Unrealistic? Too naïve or saccharine? Too kiddy? Perhaps. But what harm can be done by trying to adopt the Mary Poppins perspective in our lives now, even if only for one day?
If you have not yet seen the movie, are doubtful it would ever be as good as the original, or need that little push, read this and know that Dame Julie Andrews herself gave the film her seal of approval. It will never be exactly like the first movie, but then why would it need to be? Do we really want that? It is distinct and beautifully delivers in its own delightful way.
Oh, and please remain until the end of the film credits – the people involved with this movie deserve to be acknowledged, and you might even learn a few interesting facts by staying back!
If you have already seen the movie what did you think of it? What was your number one takeaway lesson? Your comments are welcome below!
Image Credit: Clipart Library