Saving Mr. Banks is the story of Walt Disney’s wooing P.L. Travers (Helen Lyndon Goff), author of Mary Poppins, for the film rights to the book; in an effort to keep a 20 year promise to his daughters. Yet in the end is is so much more that this simple premise. The movie takes us through the life of Travers to help explain her extreme reluctance to hand over her creations to someone else, along the way fashioning a gripping and poignant film. Tom Hanks as Disney is wistful and Emma Thompson as Travers is prickly and yet sympathetic. The movie truly is one of the best of the year and is not to be missed.
Travers is shackled to her past. Her childhood in Australia was anything but easy. Her father was an alcoholic who could never hold down a job. He did his best to be a good father to his children. Helen was his favorite. He encouraged her to use her imagination and think of this world as illusion, using the ideas of eastern mysticism to try and alleviate her daily hurts or fears. She watches as her father’s drinking continues to bring devastation to the family’s life, yet she wants nothing more than to be like her whimsical, day-dreaming father. When he contracts influenza, Helen’s aunt sweeps in, much like Mary Poppins, and promises to fix everything. Unfortunately Helen’s father dies at the early age of 43, leaving his family destitute.
This childhood haunts Travers. She cannot let go of the pain the world has caused her. Her only outlet has been her characters in Mary Poppins. They have become her family and escape from the real world. It is why she stubbornly clings to them a makes Disney work so tirelessly for the film rights.
The most moving scene in film is when Disney shows up in London at Travers’ door. She has stormed out of L.A. after discovering that there will be an animated sequence in the movie; an idea which she detests. Throughout the whole story, Disney has been trying to figure out what it is that makes Travers so reluctant to give up her characters. As they talk in her living room he shares with her that he has come to understand why, the story of Mary Poppins, is not about a person coming to save the children, it is about saving Mr. Banks or more personally, saving little Helen Goff’s father.
Through this conversation Disney is able to help her see that she can let go of her past by creating, in the movie version of Mary Poppins, the redemption of Mr. Banks. She can, in a small way, rewrite time for herself and be free of the fetters that she has warn all her life. It illustrates beautifully the need we all have for someone to rewrite our own time streams.
Many of us have a history that we would like to change and it takes someone, entering into our lives and helping us see our pasts from a new perspective to rewrite time.The only one that can do this fully is God. His redemption of us is complete, not just our present and future but the past as well. Through his salvation we can see our lives differently, his hand involved where before we would have missed it. Time, for all intense and purposes has been rewritten as we see our past in a whole new light.
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sinwho knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:17-21, ESV)
Go see Saving Mr. Banks!